The 21st century movement mixes figures from the Islamic Emirate that ruled between 1996 and 2001 with a generation of young warriors
The Taliban already control more than half of Afghanistan, although in many of the provinces they have barely noticed the change because the insurgents already ruled before, albeit from the shadows. Those governments now come to light and the white flags of the Emirate are flying in the squares and seen high up on the hills. This Islamist movement was formed in the early 1990s, in the midst of the civil war, and by 1996 it managed to defeat the rest of the factions, seize control of Kabul and impose its rigorous vision of Islam in much of the country.
The US invasion forced them to leave the capital and return to the mountains, that eternal refuge along the border with Pakistan, but since then they have never stopped fighting the foreign presence and the new Afghan forces. For a week the advance has not stopped and both in the north, as well as in the center and south of the country, the movement has shown that, although it is still led by Pashtuns, it has significant support among the most conservative sectors of Tajiks and Uzbeks.
The Taliban movement of the 21st century mixes figures from the Islamic Emirate that ruled the country between 1996 and 2001 with new generations and has negotiated with the United States from a position of strength thanks to its advances on the battlefield. Mullah Omar’s position is now held by Hebatulá Ajundzada, a leader with a more religious than military profile, who would be between 45 and 50 years old and is a native of Kandahar, the true stronghold of the movement in southern Afghanistan.
In recent years, Hebatulá Ajundzada has been responsible for most of the fatwas (religious edicts) promulgated by the insurgents in the country and experts consider that with his appointment, approved unanimously in the shura (council formed by about 30 members) , will serve to reinforce the unity of the movement. According to a United Nations security report, he held the position of what could amount to justice minister until the collapse of the fundamentalist regime in 2001.
The hard core of the group’s veterans also includes Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, founder and former Deputy Minister of Defense at the time of the fundamentalist regime. Since May 2007 he was part of the Taliban supreme council in the so-called Shura (council) of Quetta from which emanate the guidelines to follow in the holy war on Afghan soil.
Prisoner in Pakistan
From 2010 to 2018 he was behind bars in Pakistan, but after his release he rejoined the Taliban leadership and is now part of the negotiating team in Doha. This same team includes Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai, a former minister of the fundamentalist regime who has lived in Qatar for a decade and has been one of the key players in the dialogue with the United States that has led to the withdrawal of international forces.
Among the new generations, Ajundzada’s main deputy at the top of command stands out, Mohamad Yaqub, son of Mullah Omar and an important candidate for the future to lead the group. He supervises the operations of the group and, according to the local press, which says that he is in his thirties, he would be on Afghan soil these days at the forefront of the attacks.
Another of the code names is that of Sirajuddin Haqqani, head of the dreaded Haqqani network. Like Yaqub, he is a second-generation leader as he picks up the witness from his father, the mythical Mujahideen commander Jalaluddin Haqqani.
A fighter against the Soviets during the invasion from 1979 to 1989, Jalaluddin subsequently fought against the Americans. The Taliban regime confirmed his death three years ago, which would have occurred as a result of a long illness, although he had previously transferred his power to Sirajuddin. This, current leader of the network, is a member of a clan of ten brothers, of which three have died during attacks by American troops and the fourth in an armed confrontation in Islamabad.