All the Taliban’s men: A who’s who of the Islamic Emirate’s new leadership

Like the government of the first Islamist Emirate, which collapsed after 9/11, the cabinet is heavily dominated by leaders from southern Afghanistan

Praveen Swami September 08, 2021 11:14:43 IST
All the Taliban’s men: A who’s who of the Islamic Emirate’s new leadership

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid, centre, speaks at his first news conference at the Government Media Information Centre, in Kabul on 17 August, 2021. AP

“Inclusive government” was promised in peace negotiations that was run for years: on Tuesday, the second Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan announced an interim cabinet and key government appointments that are anything but. Fifty-five percent of Afghanistan’s population, segmented by ethnicity and faith; has just three representatives in this cabinet: there is no Shia, one ethnic Uzbek and two ethnic Tajiks. Another half of the population—women—has no representation at all.

Like the government of the first Islamist Emirate, which collapsed after 9/11, the cabinet is heavily dominated by leaders from the southern Afghanistan. However, significant number of leaders from the east—the result of a power struggle waged by the powerful jihadist warlord Sirajuddin Haqqani, now interior minister. Fifteen officials—based on the limited biographical details now available—are from the south, to ten from the Loya Paktia region, Haqqani’s heartland. Five more are from the eastern provinces of Kunar and Nangarhar; three from the north.

No government in the world has so many individuals either currently facing sanctions, or earlier sanctioned, by the United Nations, or sought on terrorism charges by the United States. Some were charged, though never tried, for terrorism and war crimes against ethnic and religious minorities in Afghanistan. Although individuals can—and have—been removed from UN sanctions, they are likely to complicate the Emirate’s efforts to secure international recognition.

These are profiles, drawn from official records and independent research, of the All the Taliban’s Men.

Muhammad Hassan Akhund | prime minister | UN


Famously ill-tempered, and known for religious dogmatism, Hassan was reported by United States intelligence officers to be “considered one of the most ineffective and unreasonable Taliban leaders”. According to some accounts, Hassan was among the 30 clerics who then co-founded the Taliban, under the leadership of Taliban emir Mullah Muhammad Umar. He served the Islamic Emirate until 9/11, in various capacities and headed the Taliban’s rehbari shura, or leadership council.

Likely born in the village of Pashmul, in Kandahar province’s Argandab, Hassan is believed to have been educated at a seminary in Pakistan, before joining the Hizb-e-Islami’s Khalees faction during the war against the Soviet Union.

Abdul Gani Baradar | First deputy prime minister | UN


Born in the village of Yatimak, in Uruzgan province, Baradar grew up in a madrassa in Kandahar. A Durrani of the Poplazai tribe, he fought against Soviet forces in the 1980s, and then ran a seminary at Maiwand, in Kandahar province, with Mullah Muhammad Umar—his brother-in-law, via marriage to two sisters. Among other positions, Baradar—“brother”, in Pashto, the name given by Mullah Umar—served as the Islamic Emirate’s governor of Herat and Kandahar, the commander of the central army corps, and defence minister.

From 2007, he opened a secret channel of negotiations with former president Hamid Karzai—also a Popalzai—earning the wrath of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate. In 2010, he was arrested in a joint ISI-Central Intelligence Agency operation and remained incarcerated until 2018. From later that year, he led negotiations between the Taliban and the United States in Doha.

Abdus Salam Hanafi | Second deputy prime minister | UN


A key member of the Taliban’s negotiating team in Doha, Abdus Salam served as education minister in the first Islamic Emirate, and then served as military in-charge of Jawzjan province after 9/11. He was alleged to have had an important role in running narcotics for the Taliban to raise revenues. An ethnic Uzbek, from Gardan village in Jawzjan, he was educated at a seminary in Karachi.

Muhammad Yakoob Umar | Defence | not listed


The son of Taliban emir Muhammad Umar, Yakoob Umar was little known until the death of his father—which was only made public two years after, in 2015. The Taliban appointed Akhtar Mansur as the new emir, and Umar responded by threatening to split the organisation. To heal the split, Yakoob was handed military command of Taliban forces in 15 of Afghanistan’s 34 districts—splitting the job with Ibrahim Sadr, an influential Iran-funded commander who opposed the fledgling dialogue process.

In 2016, Akhtar Mansur was killed. His successor, Haibatullah Akhund made Yakoob his deputy, along with powerful eastern warlord Sirajuddin Haqqani, appeasing both potential challengers to his authority. Finally, in May 2020, Yakoob was made head of all Taliban military operations. The move displaced Ibrahim Sadr. Sadr was, interestingly, tipped to become interior minister, but his name does not figure in the final cabinet appointments.

Sirajuddin Haqqani | Interior | FBI


The oldest son of Jalaluddin Haqqani—the founding patriarch of the Taliban’s most powerful military component, the Haqqani Network—Sirajuddin acquired charge of the organisation after his father’s death in 2018. Haqqani has admitted responsibility for multiple suicide attacks in Afghanistan in which dozens of civilians were killed. The United States Federal Bureau of Investigations is offering a $10 million reward for information leading to his apprehension.

Haqqani Network leaders are believed to have a complex web of relationships with the Islamic State, Al Qaeda, and the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan. The group is said to have trained Indian nationals as suicide bombers. In addition, the Haqqani Network is believed to be deeply enmeshed in the narcotics trade and extortion local businesses targeting cargo traffic from Pakistan.

Amir Khan Mutaqqi | External affairs | UN

b. 1968

Former director of the office of Taliban emir Haibatullah Akhund, Mutaqqi was a member of the Taliban negotiating team in Doha. He served as minister of culture, education and information during the first Islamic Emirate. Born in Zurmat district of Paktia province, Mutaqqi later moved to Kandahar.

Hadiyatullah Badri | Finance | not listed


No details are available.

Khairullah Khairkhwah | Information | Guantanamo


Acting minister of interior during the Islamic Emirate, governor of the provinces of Kabul and Herat, and military commander in Mazar-e-Sharif, Khairkhwah is said to be among the founders of the Taliban. Born in Kandahar’s Arghistan, and a member of the Popalzai tribe, he is said to have trained as a cleric in the Dar-ul-Uloom seminary near Peshawar in Pakistan.

Following 9/11, Khairkhwah reached out to former president Hamid Karzai family, seeking an amnesty and a place in the new government. Instead, Khairkhwah was arrested in Pakistan and ended up in the United States’ Guantanamo Bay prison camp. In 2010, Karzai called for his release—in an effort to kickstart a peace process—only to be rebuffed. Later, however, Khaikhwah was released in a prisoner swap and resettled in Doha. He was part of the Taliban’s negotiating team.

Abdul Latif Mansur | Water and electricity | UN


Earlier minister of agriculture in the Islamic Emirate, Mansur fought in the anti-Soviet jihad in the Harakat-e Inqilab-e Islami mujahideen group of his uncle Nasrullah Mansur, before joining the Taliban. He continued the allegiance after 9/11, rising to hold several important positions. For a time, under slain emir Akhtar Mansur, he was considered the third-most important figure in the Taliban.

Born in Garda Saray in Paktia province, a member of the Sahak Ghilzai tribe, he was one of the few non-southern figures—other than Sirajuddin Haqqani—to hold power in the Taliban’s inner councils, including its political commission.

Abdul Baqi Haqqani | Higher Education  | UN


Governor of the eastern provinces of Khost and Paktika before 9/11, and later vice-minister for culture, Abdul Baqi is said to have played an important role in the revival of the Taliban’s networks in the region from 2003 onwards. Born in the province of Nangarhar, he was educated at the Dar-ul-Uloom seminary in Akhora Khattak, Serajuddin Haqqani’s alma mater.

Noorullah Munir | Education | not listed


No details are available

Najibullah Haqqani | Telecom | UN


Earlier deputy minister of public works, Najibullah began to play an important role in the Haqqani Network’s operations from 2008 on, taking charge of all operations in Kunar and Laghman. Born in the village of Moni, in Kunar province, Najibullah is alleged to have had an important role in organising terrorist attacks, and fundraising for the group.

Khalil-ur-Rehman Haqqani | Rehabilitation | UN


Brother to Haqqani Network patriarch Jalaluddin Haqqani, and uncle to interior minister Sirajuddin Haqqani, Khalil has been described as a key fundraiser for the Haqqani Network, charged with running a network of front companies in Saudi Arabia, Iran, China and Pakistan, with interests in mining, transport and construction. He earlier served as a military commander and had responsibility for prisoners.

Abdul Haq Wasiq | Intelligence | UN


Earlier having served the Islamic Emirate as deputy chief with the Estakhbarat intelligence service until 9/11, under his cousin Qazi Ahmadullah, Wasiq is believed to have used his connections to secure surrender and reintegration in 2002. The deal, alleged to have been brokered by Hezb-e Wahadat politician Abdul Karim Khalili, went sour, and he ended up in Guantanamo Bay, after being held by United State special forces.

Ghazni-born Wasiq is believed to have been educated at the Zia-ul-Madaris seminary in Pakistan’s Quetta.

In February, 2011, Afghanistan’s Higher Peace Council named 11 Taliban it wanted to be released from Guantanamo Bay, as a gesture to help restart peace negotiations. Wasiq was eventually freed in a 2014 prisoner swap, along with his cabinet colleagues Khairullah Khairkhwa, Mohammad Fazl, and Noorullah Nuri. He settled in Doha after his release and joined the Taliban’s negotiating team.

Qari Din Muhammad Hanif | Education | UN

b. 1955

A Tajik, born in the village of Shakarlab in Badakshan province, Hanif is among the few members of ethnic minority groups to have a role in the Islamic Emirate. He served as planning minister in the first Islamic Emirate, and then served on the Taliban supreme council, responsible for the provinces of Badakshan and Takhar. From 2010, Hanif began to appear at academic events, speaking in the name of the Taliban at a conference in Kyoto in the summer of 2012.

Abdul Hakim Shari’e | Minister of Justice | not listed


Leader, for a time, of the Taliban’s negotiating team in Doha, Abdul Hakim also served as the Taliban’s shadow chief justice, enforcing Sharia law in those parts of the country, the group governed. Abdul Hakim had been a judge in the Taliban’s courts at Kandahar during the first Islamic Emirate and taught at the Dar-ul-Uloom seminary at Akhora Khattak—alma mater to several of his colleagues. He also ran his own seminary in Quetta, where many Taliban cadre studied. A bomb attack on the seminary, attributed by the Taliban to Afghanistan’s intelligence services, killed his sons Abdul Ali and Abdul Halim.

Noor Mohammad Saqib | Hajj minister | UN

The former chief justice of the Islamic Emirate before 9/11, and head of the Taliban’s religious affairs committee, Saqib hails from the Deh Sabz district in Kabul province and belongs to the Ahmadzai tribe.

Noorullah Nuri | Borders minister


An ethnic Tochi born in Uruzgan province’s Shahjoy, Nuri did not fight in the anti-Soviet jihad but instead joined the Taliban as it swept north from Kandahar after 1994. He then served the Islamic Emirate in Baghlan, Laghman and Wardak, rising to the rank of governor of Mazar-i Sharif. Following the collapse of Taliban forces in the wake of 9/11, though, Nuri surrendered to the forces of General Abdul Rashid Dostum, in return for a guarantee of safe passage into Pakistan. However, Nuri was arrested by United States special forces and interned in Guantanamo Bay. He was finally released in 2014, in a prisoner-swap, along with three of his now-cabinet colleagues.

Yunus Akhundzada | Rural Development


No details are available

Hamidullah Akhundzada | civil aviation and transport | UN


A former head of state carrier Ariana in the first Islamic Emirate, Hamidullah was born in the village of Sarpolad, in Helmand Province.

Mullah Abdul Manan Umari | Public works | not listed


The brother of Taliban emir Mullah Muhammad Umar’s wife, Umari was among the Taliban’s peace negotiators in Doha. He was alleged by Afghan intelligence officials to have been relocated to the city from Karachi with a Pakistani passport and to be living in a luxury villa in the Rayyan area.

Mohammad Essa Akhund | Mines and Industries | UN


Essa served as minister for water, sanitation and electricity in the first Islamic Emirate. Born in the Spin Boldak area of Kandahar province, he went on to occupy several positions in the Taliban’s councils.

Mohammad Khalid | Proselytisation and preaching | not listed


Mohammad Sher Abbas Stanekzai | Deputy minister for external affairs | UN


A graduate of the Indian Military Academy—and, by the accounts of some diplomats who have met him, a social liberal not hostile to joining colleagues over an evening drink—Stanekzai was among the most visible faces of the Taliban’s negotiating team in Doha. He was, for a time, in charge of the negotiating team, following the resignation of its founding head, Tayyab Agha. Later, he often acted for now-deputy prime minister, Abdul Gani Baradar. However, Stanekzai has received a relatively junior cabinet position, reflecting his lack of status in the Taliban’s inner core.

Noor Jalal| Deputy minister of the Interior | UN


Earlier minister of interior affairs in the first Taliban emirate, Noor Gul is cousin to Najibullah Haqqani, the telecom minister. After being delisted by the UN, he worked for a Kabul-based Non-Governmental Organisation involved in conflict resolution. Born in the village of Lajen, in Afghanistan’s Kunar province, Noor Gul is a member of the Shinwari tribe, and was born in the village of Lajen, in Afghanistan’s Kunar province.

Mullah Mohammad Fazl | Deputy minister for defence | Guantanamo

The Taliban's former deputy defence minister, Fazl was held in Guantanamo Bay until freed in a 2014 prisoner swap, along with three of his now-cabinet colleagues. He earlier served as chief of staff of the Islamic Emirate Army, and was accused of war crimes against Afghanistan’s Shi’a minority, as well as links to groups like al-Qaeda and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan.

Zabiullah Mujahid | Deputy minister for information | not listed


Long known to followers of the Taliban’s social media feeds, Zabiullah Mujahid served as the organisation’s public voice since 2009; he did not reveal his face until arriving in Kabul after the fall of president Ashraf Ghani’s government. Earlier, he handled Taliban communications in Ghazni and Kabul. It is unclear, however, if he had any military role.

Tajmir Jawad | First Deputy Chief of Intelligence | not listed


Alleged by Afghanistan’s intelligence services to be a key leader in the Haqqani Network, Tajmir is believed to have been the operational head of the suicide-attacks that crippled Kabul from 2008 on. He is said to lived freely in Peshawar, with the support of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence directorate, despite multiple Afghan efforts to secure his arrest.

Rahmatullah Najib | Deputy Chief of Intelligence | not listed


Mullah Abdul Haq | Deputy Minister of Interior, Counter-Narcotics | not listed


No details are available

Qari Fasihuddin | chief of army | UN

Formerly Taliban shadow governor in Badakshan, Qari Fasihuddin is an ethnic Tajik fighter who rose up from the Taliban’s ranks. The deputy commander of the Taliban’s military commission, under Yakoob Umar, he appears to have been rewarded for stamping out resistance in the Panjshir region.

Haji Mohammad Idris | Director of the central bank | not listed


No details are available

Ahmad Jan Ahmady | Administrative office of the president | not listed

No details are available

Updated Date:

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