Afghanistan: Exiled Taliban Co-Founder Who Returned After 10 Years Tipped For President
A co-founder of the Taliban is tipped to be Afghanistan’s next president after he returned to the country following 10 years of exile.
Abdul Ghani Baradar arrived in Kandahar on Tuesday, August 17 following the Taliban takeover which prompted thousands of residents to flee their homes and rush to the airport to try and escape an insurgent-led Afghanistan.
Baradar, a close friend of Taliban founder Mohammad Omar, was escorted by a fleet of white SUVs and greeted with a mixed response from residents, some of whom cheered while others simply stood and watched the scene unfold.
It is unclear exactly how old the Taliban co-founder is, but he is known to have served as the Taliban’s governor of several provinces in the late 1990s, before spending the last ten years living in a Pakistani prison and a luxury hotel in Doha.
When Afghan president Ashraf Ghani fled the country and the Taliban took over, Baradar issued a video statement in which he commented: ‘Now comes the test. Now it’s about how we serve and secure our people and ensure their future.’
A UN employee in Afghanistan who spoke to The Washington Post said Baradar escaped to Pakistan and started living in Karachi in the early years of the war, after becoming particularly incensed by a US airstrike that killed dozens of people at a 2002 wedding of his relatives.
Baradar had emerged as a day-to-day leader of the Taliban’s war effort by the time the Obama administration was sending more troops to Afghanistan in 2010, but he was arrested early that same year in a joint operation by CIA and Pakistani forces in Karachi.
He remained in prison until 2018, when he was released at the request of US and Afghan leaders to participate in peace talks. Last year, he discussed negotiations over power-sharing in Afghanistan and claimed the Taliban was seeking ‘an Islamic system in which all people of the nation can participate without discrimination and live harmoniously with each other in an atmosphere of brotherhood.’
Thomas Ruttig, a former German diplomat and a longtime analyst of Afghanistan, told The Washington Post Baradar has ‘developed and shown political understanding’ over the years, describing him as ‘something like a counterbalance to more hawkish people in the Taliban movement.’
He continued: ‘And it’s good to have someone like that. It seems that Baradar will have an enormous influence in the new Taliban government and has been underestimated in his role there.’
The Taliban has vowed to create a more inclusive country with women involved in its government, but with no clear leader established as of yet, it remains to be seen whether it will follow through on its promises.
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CreditsThe Washington Post
The Washington Post