The Taliban have an organizational structure split into different hierarchies.

The Supreme Leader is Haibatullah Akhundzada, while Mullah Yaqoob (son of Mullah Omar) heads the military wing.

Even when the Taliban were at their peak in Afghanistan during the years 1996 till 2001, they always kept their leadership and inner organizational heads shrouded in secrecy.

As we see them gaining power once again, here is a breakdown of what is known about their leadership.

Haibatullah Akhundzada became leader of the Taliban in a swift power transition after a United States drone strike killed his predecessor, Mullah Mansour Akhtar, in 2016.

Akhundzada was previously a low-profile religious figure. He is widely believed to have been selected to serve more as a spiritual figurehead than a military commander. But then he quickly moved up the ranks.

Akhundzada secured a pledge of loyalty from Al Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri, who showered the religious scholar with praise — calling him “the emir of the faithful”. This gesture was symbolic of the alliances that exist between the Taliban and Al-Qaeda as well.

The Taliban militancy wing had been fractured because, after the death of Mullah Mansour Akhtar, there had been a power struggle for who would become commander of the wing. Then, there was also the problem of Mullah Omar, the founder of the Taliban, who had been assassinated. That information had been kept secret for years until it finally spilled out.

Someone had to step in to boost the morale of the fighters and also bring unity inside of the militancy wing. That someone was Akhundzada – he also established himself as a reliable jihadist via the endorsement from Ayman al-Zawahiri which made the fighters more likely to obey him. He was referred to, and still is, as the “Leader of the Faithful.”

Mullah Baradar, the founder. He is one of the two main founders of the Taliban. He is believed to have fought side by side with the infamous “one eyed cleric”, Mullah Omar.

Abdul Ghani Baradar was raised in Kandahar – which is also where the Taliban movement originates from.

Baradar’s life was forever altered by the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in the late 1970s, and he became a rebel fighter.

After the Soviet withdrew in 1989, there was much chaos and civil war in the region – that is when the Taliban solidified, introducing themselves as a much needed orderly force amid all the mess.

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 recognise the new administration.

He was arrested in 2010 in Pakistan, but pressure from the US saw him being freed and relocated to Qatar. He became a pawn for the US to negotiate a withdrawal from Afghanistan – which is why he became the head of the Taliban office and oversaw the signing of the withdrawal agreement of US troops from Afghanistan.

Sirajuddin Haqqani, deputy leader of Taliban and head of Haqqani network.

He is the son of the famed anti-Soviet jihadist, Jalaluddin Haqqani.

The Haqqani Network has been designated by the US as a terror group and has been long been viewed as one of the most dangerous factions that are currently fighting Afghan and US-led Nato forces.

The group has perfected itself in guerrilla warfare: their use of suicide bombers has allowed them to carry out the most high-profile attacks in Kabul.

They’ve also assassinated top Afghan officials and kidnapped Western citizens for ransom — including US soldier Bowe Bergdahl.

The group is known for its independence, fighting acumen, and savvy business dealings.

They oversee operations in the rugged mountains of eastern Afghanistan and have strong influence on Taliban leaders.

Mullah Yaqoob, the son of the Taliban’s founder Mullah Omar.

Mullah Yaqoob is head of the Taliban’s military commission and oversees a vast network of field commanders.

His lineage and ties to his father have made him a symbol of unity amid the scattered movement.


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