Afghanistan war: Who’s who in the Taliban leadership

In the Afghanistan war, the Taliban’s leadership council, or the Quetta Shura, has had 7 of its 15 Afghan members arrested in Pakistan in recent days. Here's a look at the key players in the Afghan Taliban leadership.

Akhtar Soomro/REUTERS
Police escort a man, who was arrested a day earlier, through the halls of a district court where he will appear before a judge in Karachi, February 18. The man, whom the police identified only as Abdullah, is a Pakistan Taliban commander from the Bajaur region, a police official said.

On Thursday, the Afghan government confirmed the arrest of Maulavi Abdul Kabir, who's capture by Pakistani authorities was reported in the media in recent days. Kabir is the head of Taliban operations in eastern Afghanistan. Afghanistan spokesman Siamak Herawi told the Associated Press that the Pakistani government told Kabul that Kabir was snared a week ago.

This was the first government official from either Pakistan or Afghanistan to publicly confirm his arrest. Kabul also confirmed Thursday that Pakistan has agreed to hand over Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the No. 2 in the Afghan Taliban leadership – also know as the Quetta Shura.

The Quetta Shura is said to be the hub of all the Taliban’s operations in Afghanistan. Much about this leadership council remains shrouded in secrecy, including even its membership and specific activities. Its size and composition have ranged over the years from as few as eight members to more than 20.

But the following list of members is based on interviews with two Taliban figures who claim to be part of the Quetta Shura and with Afghan intelligence officials. According to these sources, the council numbered at 15 when Pakistan began cracking down on the council earlier this month. The list changes frequently as Taliban officials are often reshuffled between the main shura and other subordinate bodies.

Afghanistan Taliban leadership

Mullah Muhammad Omar: The Afghan Taliban’s supreme leader, widely known as the “one-eyed mullah.” He is the Afghan Taliban’s supreme leader, believed to be hiding in Pakistan.

Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar (captured): The Afghan Taliban's No. 2, and its day-to-day operational leader. Mullah Baradar was very close to Mullah Omar, and reportedly the only Quetta Shura member who had regular access to him.

Muhammad Hassan Rahmani: One of the most powerful Taliban leaders, thought to be close to Mullah Omar. He held the important role of governor of Kandahar during the Taliban government.

Mullah Abdul Qayoum Zakir (captured): Head of the Taliban's military operations in southern Afghanistan, charged with stopping the US troop surge. In 2001, he was captured and was held in Quantánamo Bay, Cuba, detention facilities until 2007. Then, he was transferred to an Afghan prison. In 2008, he was freed by the Afghan government. He is also identified as Abdullah Ghulam Rasoul.

For more on Zakir's role and the Quetta Shura, read this report.

Maulavi Abdul Kabir (captured): Head of military and logistical operations in the eastern part of Afghanistan (Laghman, Kunar, Nuristan and Nangarhar provinces) He was also on the Taliban’s political affairs committee, which is involved in outreach to other groups and governments. He was based in Peshawar, Pakistan. .

Jalaluddin Haqqani: A famed, aging fighter during the 1980s war against the Soviets. His son, Sirajuddin, has effectively succeeded him as head of the Haqqani Network, one of the most powerful insurgent networks in Afghanistan.

Mullah Abdul Razzak: Former Information minister for the Taliban when it ruled Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001, Mullah Razzak is considered an important military planner. He was arrested by Pakistan in 2003, but was released and rejoined the group shortly thereafter.

Amir Khan Muttaqi: A former minister in the Taliban government, and a longtime friend of Mullah Omar. He currently heads propaganda efforts.

Mullah Muhammad Younis (captured): Considered an explosives expert, Mullah Younis also served as shadow governor of Zabul Province. Also known as Akhunzada Popalzai.

Agha Jan Mutassim: At one time the Taliban's head of political affairs in Quetta, he is thought to be involved in efforts to explore negotiations with the Afghan government.

Mullah Ahmad Jan Akhunzada: (captured): The former Taliban governor of eastern Zabul Province.

Mullah Abdul Jalil: Reportedly head of the Taliban's shadow "Interior ministry.”

Sayed Tayeb: Mullah Omar's former spokesman.

Mullah Muhammad Hassan (captured): The former guerrilla fighter against the Soviets turned Taliban member, Mr. Hassan is said to have been close to Mullah Omar during the Taliban government. He is a former Taliban foreign minister.

Mullah Abdul Raouf (captured): Reported to be in command of the Taliban's operations in northeastern Afghanistan.


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