“I want to congratulate the Muslim Afghan people on this huge victory," Taliban co-founder Abdul Ghani Baradar announced on Sunday, 15 August, as the Taliban took over the presidential palace in Afghanistan, striking the last nail in the coffin for the US-backed government.
Before the supposed 'peaceful transfer of power', President Ashraf Ghani fled the country, conceding that the Taliban had won the 20-year war, while Taliban terrorists made their way to the presidential palace in Kabul.
"We were in such a low state. No one was expecting that we will win or succeed," Baradar had said after the fall of Kabul. Baradar, who was earlier expected to be appointed as the supreme leader of Afghanistan, has now been named as the deputy to 'acting' leader Mohammad Hasan Akhund.
Baradar was freed from a prison in Pakistan only three years ago at the behest of the United States.
Though Haibatullah Akhundzada is the overall leader of Taliban, Baradar is the political chief and the popular face of the military organisation.
But who is Abdul Ghani Baradar? Here’s what we know.
Afghanistan and Its Civil Wars
Baradar was born in the Uruzgan province in 1968 and fought against the Soviets in the 1980s as an Afghan mujahideen.
The Russians were driven out by the US-backed Afghan Mujahideen's in 1992.
Then-President Mohammad Najibullah, having lost support of the Soviet Union, resigned to make way for a neutral interim government. Several mujahideen parties started negotiations to form a national coalition.
However, the Hezb-e Islami Gulbuddin, presumably supported by Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), instead of joining the negotiations, announced to conquer Kabul alone.
This resulted in a civil war that was fought for four years. It was during this time that Baradar and his brother-in-law Mohammed Omar founded the Taliban, a movement dedicated to the creation of a Sharia-controlled Islamic Emirate.
The Taliban rose to power as a governing body at the end of the Civil War – to decide the fate of Kabul.
The Taliban came out as the strongest force in 1996, after it captured one provincial capital after another, much like it has now, and came to power. Baradar, who was Omar’s deputy, was credited for the victories.
However, Taliban’s capture of Kabul in September 1996 drove the country into another civil war, which consequently led to the arrival of US and UK troops.
The Taliban was then fought against in the years of 1996-2001, by the Northern Alliance, who were a united military front resisting the Taliban. They had been assembled by former president Burhanuddin Rabbani and former Defense Minister Ahmad Shah Massoud in 1996.
However, with the killing of the leader of the Alliance (Ahmad Shah Massoud) and the 11 September 2001 attack at the World Trade Center led the NATO troops to declare war on Taliban.
Despite Taliban’s 20 year exile, Baradar was seen as a military leader and a political operator. After being tracked in Karachi, by the CIA, he was arrested by Pakistan's intelligence agency ISI in 2010, The Guardian reported.
The Doha Agreement
Eight years after Baradar's arrest, Donald Trump’s Afghan envoy, Zalmay Khalilzad, asked the Pakistanis in 2018 to release Baradar so he could lead negotiations in Qatar, believing that a power-sharing arrangement could be settled on.
Baradar signed the Doha agreement with the US in February 2020, in what was seen as a breakthrough towards peace in the war-ravaged country.
However, it has now become evidently clear, that Baradar and the Taliban were biding time until the US troops left to take complete control of the nation.
Meanwhile, basic fundamental rights and public spaces that Afghan women had fought hard for, have now turned to dust.
The Taliban has sought to reassure people that they will not take revenge against those who supported the US-backed alliance. Baradar was also quoted as saying, "Now it's time to test and prove, now we have to show that we can serve our nation and ensure security and comfort of life," NDTV reported.
(With inputs from The Guardian and NDTV)