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Who is Mullah Baradar? Likely new Afghan president is Taliban co-founder, ‘peace talks’ envoy

Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar is the group’s most public face and its political chief. He oversaw the signing of troop withdrawal agreement with US.

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New Delhi: The Taliban Monday declared an end to the 20-year-long war in Afghanistan and claimed victory following the takeover of the presidential palace in Kabul and nearly all major cities, including Mazar-e-Sharif, Herat and Kandahar, amid the exit of the US-led forces.

At the helm of this ‘win’ is the probable new Afghanistan president — the insurgent group’s leader Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar.

Baradar, a co-founder of the Taliban movement, is the group’s most public face and also its political chief, who oversaw the signing of the agreement for the US troops withdrawal with the erstwhile Donald Trump administration.

There is little clarity yet on the form of the new Afghan regime. But Taliban spokesperson Mohammad Naeem told Al Jazeera TV that the group “did not want to live in isolation and (called) for peaceful international relations”.

However, as images start circulating on social media of women’s photos in public places being painted over, many fear a return to the old ways from two decades ago, when the Taliban imposed a strict interpretation of the Sharia law in the country.

“Baradar’s return to power embodies Afghanistan’s inability to escape the bloody shackles of its past. The story of his adult life is the story of the country’s unceasing, pitiless conflict,” writes The Guardian’s world affairs editor Julian Borger.

Also read: UNSC to hold emergency meet on situation in Afghanistan today

Who is Baradar?

Baradar was born in 1968 in the Uruzgan province and raised in Kandahar, according to Interpol.

In the 1980s, like many young men of the time, Baradar was part of the Afghan Mujahideen who fought against the Soviet Union invasion. After the Russians were driven out, a civil war ensued in the country, known as the graveyard of empires. 

It was then that Baradar, along with his brother-in-law Mullah Mohammed Omar, co-founded the Taliban in 1994. They established the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan within two years. 

Baradar, then the deputy minister of defence, controlled Taliban’s funds, and played a key role in the several wars that inflicted Afghanistan. After the 9/11 attack and US’ subsequent invasion that toppled the Islamist regime in 2001, Baradar emerged as “a linchpin of the insurgency”, BBC reports.

He maintained a low-profile for almost a decade before finding his way to the headlines in 2010 when he was arrested by Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), in a joint US-Pakistan operation. 

But after Donald Trump took over as US president, Baradar was released in 2018, “based on the belief that he would settle for a power-sharing arrangement”, Borger writes.

‘Waiting for final offensive’

Baradar went on to sign the Doha agreement with the Trump administration in February 2020 to bring peace to Afghanistan. The agreement proposed “intra-Afghan” power-sharing talks between the Ashraf Ghani-led government and the Taliban. 

However, as reports of gunfire at the Kabul airport and images of countless Afghan nationals fighting for a seat on aircraft came in Sunday, Borger argues it is clear that Baradar and the Taliban were just waiting for the US troops’ withdrawal to prepare for “a final offensive”.

(Edited by Amit Upadhyaya)

Also read: Don’t forget us as we fight Taliban, says Afghan leader who thwarted Indian mission attack


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