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Afghanistan: Who’s who in the new Taliban government
September 8, 2021
The Taliban has announced who will be in the new cabinet of ministers who will run Afghanistan following its takeover the country.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid made the announcement after days of consultations between returned exiles, regional governors and other senior officials.
He said the appointments were for an interim government but did not say for how long they would remain in their acting posts.
This is what we know about those in the new government.
Mohammad Hassan Akhund – acting prime minister
It is understood that Hibatullah Akhundzada, the spiritual head of the group, proposed Mohammad Hassan Akhund as head of state, or Raees-e Jamhoor, as it’s also known in Afghanistan.
He is presently head of the Taliban’s powerful decision-making body the Rehbari Shura, or the leadership council.
Originally from Kandahar – the organisation’s birthplace – he was among the founders of the movement, and is known more for his religious leadership rather than his military expertise.
During that time, he has remained close to Akhundzada and it is believed he may have been chosen as a compromise candidate following disagreements between different factions of the militant group.
Associated Press says he headed the Taliban government in Kabul during the last years of its rule before the US invasion in 2001, while Reuters says he is an associate of the movement’s late founder, Mullah Omar.
Sheikh Hibatullah Akhundzada – leader of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan
The group’s supreme commander, designate Emir and commander of the faithful, has yet to be seen in public since the Taliban swept to power in Kabul.
According to the statement of the leadership council, he will take the role of Amir-ul-Muminin Shaikh-ul-Hadith, or leader of the Emirate. It is not known what role he will have in the day-to-day government of the country.
A former member of the mujahideen resisting the Soviet invasion, Akhundzada became one of the earliest members of the Taliban in 1994 and held several offices during its period in power – especially in guiding its religious direction and promotion of “virtue”.
After the US invasion in 2001, he became the chief justice in the organisation’s Sharia courts and an adviser to Mullah Omar.
He is reported to have remained in Afghanistan throughout the group’s period out of power and settled many disputes in the group with fatwas, until, after the killing of the group’s second leader Mullah Mansour by a US drone strike in 2016, he was appointed leader, but he may also have been active in Pakistan.
Among the last times he was heard from was in May, at Eid al Fitr, when he spoke through a Taliban spokesman, according to Pakistan’s Tribune newspaper, to urge Afghans to come together for the “redevelopment of our homeland” and promised an “Afghan-inclusive Islamic system”, without the risk of rights being violated.
Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar – acting deputy prime minister
Baradar, who was previously viewed as the group’s political leader, will be one of two deputies to Akhund, along with Abdul Salam Hanafi.
He has been a key figure in the negotiations leading up to the deal with the Trump administration that prompted the US pullout, paving the way for the Taliban advance.
Seen meeting officials in Doha, China and Moscow, the Taliban’s deputy commander of the faithful and apparent political leader was only able to do so because he was freed from prison in Pakistan in 2018 – shortly after Mr Trump’s Afghanistan envoy Zalmay Khalilzad visited Islamabad – having been in jail since 2010.
One of the co-founders of the movement, Baradar is the only surviving Taliban leader to have been personally appointed deputy by Mullah Omar, giving him near-legendary status among the faithful.
He landed back in Kandahar, the birthplace of the Taliban movement, ending 20 years of exile, having previously fled into neighbouring Pakistan after the US-led invasion in 2001.
During the group’s 1996-2001 rule, he did not have an official government role but fought alongside Omar as he led the Taliban to seize power in 1996 and during the insurgency in later years.
Muhammad Yaqoob – acting defence minister
As the eldest son of Mohammed Omar – the founder of the Taliban and original Emir (Supreme Leader) of the Taliban’s first government – Yaqoob has a significant amount of respect among the Taliban’s rank and file.
An ethnic Pashtun, he is one of two deputies to the current supreme leader, but was only a boy when the Taliban were previously in power and had his education in Pakistan.
Since coming of age, he has been a military commander, according to Pakistan Today, and was included in the Rehbari Shura before rising quickly through the ranks.
In 2020, Foreign Policy magazine said it was told by a senior Taliban commander that Yaqoob became the acting leader to the entire Taliban after Akhundzada became infected with COVID-19.
According to an analyst who spoke to Radio Free Europe, Yaqoob was a supporter of negotiation and had the backing of Saudi Arabia in his climb to the top, and that Riyadh had provided him with support.
Sirajuddin Haqqani – acting interior minister
The leader of the Haqqani network, who took over from his father Jalaluddin Haqqani when he died some time between 2016 and 2018.
As the proclaimed deputy leader of the Taliban, he had previously overseen armed combat against American and coalition forces, reportedly from a base within North Waziristan in Pakistan.
He is wanted by the FBI in connection with the January 2008 attack on a hotel in Kabul, Afghanistan, that killed six people, including an American citizen, and planning an assassination attempt on then Afghan president Hamid Karzai in 2008.
He wrote an opinion piece for the New York Times in 2020, outlining what the Taliban sought from its negotiations with the Trump administration, saying it offered an “inclusive political system in which the voice of every Afghan is reflected”, but in March this year he was heard in a broadcast speech lauding his followers’ performance on the battlefield, which he said would “crush the arrogance of the rebellious emperors of the world”.
Zabihullah Mujahid – acting information minister
The Taliban’s main spokesman after the fall of Kabul, Mujahidwas the figure who announced the cabinet positions to the world.
In the aftermath of the takeover, his was the public face of the group attempting to present a moderate image.
Many journalists who had communicated with him on a phone or via other mediums over the years were shocked to finally see the man they had been dealing with.
For years, he had been a shadowy figure issuing statements on behalf of the militants but he pledged insurgents sought no revenge and that “everyone is forgiven”.
Amir Khan Muttaqi – acting foreign minister
Muttaqi was a member of the negotiation team in Qatar, that engaged in talks with the US envoy.
He was previously education minister in the Taliban’s government in 2001 and once held a news conference with an AK-47 on his desk as the US prepared to invade as he vowed that the Taliban would resist a ground force attack.
The Helmand-born 51-year-old also served as minister for information and culture and was reportedly one of the Taliban senior leaders who held talks with Abdullah Abdullah and Hamid Karzai after the fall of Kabul.