From Hunted and Jailed Taliban Warlord to Public Face of Afghanistan: Who is Abdul Ghani Baradar?
As the US and NATO began their withdrawal from Afghanistan, the Taliban* embarked on an offensive, finally seizing the capital, Kabul, on 15 August. As the government collapsed and President Ashraf Ghani fled the country “to avoid bloodshed”, Abdul Ghani Baradar is likely to become president of the war-torn country.
With the Taliban’s sweeping offensive
having now culminated in it taking over
the presidential palace in Afghanistan, forcing former President Ashraf Ghani to flee the country, an Afghan militant who was co-founder of the Islamist group is deemed likely to become the new President.
Abdul Ghani Baradar, who was an insurgent military commander, has returned to Afghanistan and is expected to head the country's new government. He arrived in the southern province of Kandahar after a 20-year exile on Tuesday as part of a delegation of top Taliban officials, a spokesman for the group, Mohammad Naeem, tweeted.
From Warlord to Political Strategist
Abdul Ghani Baradar was born in the Afghani province of Uruzgan in 1968, and was raised in the birthplace of the Taliban movement - Kandahar. He fought alongside the Afghan Mujahideen against the Soviet forces in the 1980s.
Over a period of 10 years, the Soviet Union undertook military efforts in Afghanistan as part of an attempt to back the ruling People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan.
However, the US maintained firm support for the rebels opposing the Soviet-backed government, and after the 1988 peace accord with Afghanistan
, the last Soviet soldiers left the country in October 1989. Civil war between rival warlords continued in Afghanistan until the Taliban’s seizure of power in the late 1990s.
Abdul Ghani Baradar set up a madrassa in Kandahar with his late mentor, one-eyed cleric Mullah Mohammed Omar, and the two eventually founded the Taliban movement.
Mullah Mohammed Omar was the de facto leader of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan from 1996 until 2001.
Baradar was made the deputy defence minister in the Taliban government, which under Mullah Omar’s leadership enshrined strict Islamic principles. As education and employment for women, who were forced to wear burqas, all but ceased, capital punishment was enacted for various transgressions and music, television, and other forms of popular entertainment prohibited.
Baradar also ostensibly built links with Osama bin Laden, the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, from a base in the mountainous region bordering Pakistan, according to the New York Times.
It was Mullah Omar’s refusal to extradite the al-Qaeda leader in the aftermath of those terror attacks that prompted the US invasion of Afghanistan in 2001.
After the overthrow of the Taliban government, Baradar is believed to have helped Mullah Omar escape by riding a motorcycle across the border. In Pakistan, the two are believed to have controlled their Islamist group from a network of safe houses. As Omar's health started to fail, in 2010, Baradar was reported to have assumed “absolute control” over the Taliban's operations. Mullah Omar is believed to have died from tuberculosis in 2013.
US officials believed that besides running the Taliban’s military operations, Mullah Baradar ran the group’s leadership council, often called the Quetta Shura. As a result of a secret joint operation by Pakistani and American intelligence forces, according to American government officials Baradar was arrested in a raid in Pakistan in 2010. Baradar was kept in custody, where he reportedly began lobbying his organisation's commanders to engage in dialogue with the US and Afghan governments. At the behest of President Trump's Afghan peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad, Baradar was freed in October 2018.
"The release of Mullah Baradar, which was my request... they (Pakistan) accommodated that, because Mullah Baradar has reputation of being more open, more pro-peace," said the top US envoy at the time, adding that according to ex-Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai and his successor President Ashraf Ghani, Baradar could play a pivotal role in the peace process and had tried to facilitate talks between the Taliban and the US.
The following year, Baradar was named as the Taliban's chief negotiator in formal negotiations in Qatar.
In February 2020, Abdul Ghani Baradar was present during the signing of the Doha Agreement under then-president Donald Trump. Under it, the US would draw its forces down to all but 2,500 troops, while the Taliban pledged not to let extremists use the country for attacking the US or its allies.
The deal was supposed to be followed by power-sharing talks between the Taliban and the Kabul government.
Since the success of their onslaught in the wake of foreign troop departure
, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid made assurances
to the international community regarding human rights issues at a press conference in Kabul.
According to him, women would be equal within society, but their rights will be guaranteed within the framework of Islam and Sharia. He reiterated the Taliban's previous pledge to grant amnesty to Afghans who previously worked with foreign governments or the previous Afghan government.
Meanwhile, Baradar, de facto president, posted a video on social media.
“I want to congratulate the Muslim Afghan people on this huge victory. We were in such a low state. No one was expecting that we will win or succeed," said Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar on Sunday, 15 August, as the Taliban took over Kabul
. He vowed to “show humility in front of Allah”, as well as “serve the Afghan people and set an example for the rest of the world”.
*The Taliban, al-Qaeda are terrorist organisations banned in Russia and many other nations.