The Taliban’s leadership structure has long been a mystery, with little known about how it works beyond the group’s most influential figures.
After seizing control of Afghanistan, the Taliban are moving to form a new government, with pledges of inclusivity and reform. But a look at the group’s leadership structure suggests that the nature of the new government could very well mirror the Taliban’s previous hard-line regime.
The group is led by the reclusive Haibatullah Akhundzada, a senior religious cleric in his 50s who was named chief after a US airstrike killed his predecessor in 2016. Hailing from the Taliban heartland of Spin Boldak, in southern Kandahar province, he was involved in the mujahedeen – or holy Islamic fight – against the Soviet invasion in the 1980s, and was appointed as the leader of jihadi matters in 2001, according to a Taliban spokesperson Zabiullah Mujahid.
His deputy, Abdul Ghani Baradar, was a prominent member of the Taliban regime when it was last in power, and as the head of the group’s political committee is currently one of the militants’ most public facing leaders. Baradar arrived back in Afghanistan after a 20-year-exile last week.
Here’s a look at what else we know about key figures and how the Taliban’s power structure functions.