The Taliban in a shockingly rapid move took over Afghanistan after capturing Kabul on August 15. The world's best intelligence and security establishments were in awe with the quick takeover by the banned Islamist terror group, which was ousted in 2001 following the US invasion.
The US invasion came in response to the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington, in which nearly 3,000 people were killed. Al Qaeda and its leader Osama Bin Laden, were responsible for the massacre and they were under the protection of the Taliban, who had been in power since 1996.
The world has not yet recognised the Taliban with many announcing no diplomatic ties, some running away in haste shutting down their missions in Afghan and others vowing to support the anti-Taliban resistance launched by former Vice President Amrullah Saleh and Ahmad Massoud, the son of legendary Afghan rebel commander Ahmad Shah Massoud, in Panjshir Valley.
Prominent Taliban members, who are against women rights and are extremists, were hunted down for 20 years by world best intelligence agencies but they still managed to regroup and forced the US to engage with them leading to the complete takeover of Afghanistan.
But who are these prominent Taliban members of 2021?
Profiles of top Taliban members
Mawlawi Hibatullah Akhundzada
The Supreme Commander of Taliban is Mawlawi Hibatullah Akhundzada, who is also known as "Emir" of the organisation. He became Supreme Commander of the Islamist group in May 2016 when his predecessor Akhtar Mansour was killed in a drone strike. The drone targeted Mansour's vehicle in a remote area of south-west Pakistan near the Afghan border. Mansour assumed the leadership in July 2015, replacing Taliban founder and spiritual head Mullah Mohammad Omar.
When Akhundzada was appointed as Supreme Commander, Al Qaeda's leader Ayman al-Zawahiri announced his support and hailed him as "emir of the believers".
Akhundzada was born in 1961 in Kandahar province and is as a religious leader. He hails from the powerful Nurzai clan of the ethnic Pashtuns. He had overseen legal and Islamic law and jurisprudence (Sharia) related matters as head of the judiciary during the Taliban regime from 1996 to 2001.
Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar
The founding member of the Taliban movement in 1990s, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar is deputy commander of the Taliban and also heads the group's political office in Doha. He was born into the Pashtun tribe in southern Afghanistan in 1968 and when he was young he fought with mujahideen guerrillas against Soviet troops.
After the war, he helped Mullah Muhammad Omar, his former commander (and, some say, brother-in-law) and formed the Taliban. He had served as the provincial governor and deputy defence minister during the Taliban's rule. After the US invasion in 2001, Mullah Baradar drove his commander on the back of a motorcycle to hide in the hills. He was arrested in Karachi in 2010 and released in October 2018 at the request of the US.
He was in charge of the Doha Peace Office. At the helm of the group's political office in Doha, its de facto embassy, Mullah Baradar led talks with the US that culminated in a deal to end Washington's engagement in the 20-year war.
Sirajuddin is the Taliban's deputy leader and head of the semi-independent Haqqani Network, a designated terror group in Afghanistan. He was on the US' Most Wanted list and and had a $5 million reward. He is a Pashtun from Paktia and a member of the Zadran clan.
Sirajuddin is the head of the Taliban's military strategy and was placed in charge of Kabul's security after the August 15 takeover. He is is believed to have been born in either Afghanistan or Pakistan between 1973 and 1980. He oversees the Taliban's operations in the eastern regions, including Paktia, Paktika, Khost, and Ningarhar provinces, as well as in and around Kabul.
He has close ties to the Al Qaeda.
His father, Jalaluddin Haqqani, founded their namesake jihadi group and handed over leadership before his death in 2018. In the 1980s, Jalaluddin Haqqani was among the US-backed mujahideen warlords battling a Soviet Union invasion and was a close friend and mentor of bin Laden.
Mullah Muhammad Yaqoob
Mullah Muhammad Yaqoob is the son of the Taliban's founding leader Mullah Mohammad Omar. The 31-year-old Yaqoob is a Pashtun from the Hotak clan and has been the group's military chief since 2020, overseeing all ground engagements in Afghanistan. He is a deputy commander of the group.
Yaqoob was trained in guerrilla warfare by the Pakistan-based terror group Jaish-e Mohammad.
It is believed that being Mullah Omar's eldest son got Yaqoob elevated among the Taliban's field commanders and its rank and file. Before 2015, he did not even have an official position in the Taliban. Under Yaqoob's leadership, the Taliban appears to have been upholding its commitment not to attack departing US forces. He is part of a moderate camp that favoured negotiations to end the war.
Yaqoob's predecessor, Ibrahim Sadr, a powerful field commander, opposed peace efforts.
Yaqoob is a graduate of several hard-line Islamic seminaries in Karachi, where his family had resided since the US invasion of Afghanistan.
Qari Din Mohammad Hanif
Qari Din Mohammad Hanif is a senior Taliban leader based in Qatar who had served as the group's former Minister of Higher Education and the Master of Planning. Hanif was also a member of the Taliban Supreme Council responsible for Takhar province and his home province of Badakhshan. He is an ethnic Tajik.
The 66-year-old was also a key member of the Taliban peace negotiation team in Doha. When in early 2015 the Taliban announced that it was willing to enter into peace talks geared toward ending the conflict in Afghanistan, Hanif had led a delegation of the Taliban's political office in Qatar.
Mawlawi Abdul Salam Hanafi
Mawlawi Abdul Salam Hanafi is an ethnic Uzbek from the northern Faryab province and has long been affiliated with the Taliban. The 54-year-old had served as governor as well as deputy minister of education during the Taliban rule. He is currently serving as a deputy head of the political office in Doha. Hanafi has also studied at various religious seminaries including in Karachi and has taught at the Kabul University.
Mullah Abdul Hakeem
Mullah Abdul Hakeem is a close aide to Taliban chief Hibatullah, and is the shadow chief justice in the country. He comes from the Ishaqzai clan of the Pashtuns. The 54-year-old Hakeem is considered as a hardline cleric.
He spent years lying low in Pakistan's southwestern city of Quetta, where the Afghan Taliban leadership has been based since the US invasion in 2001. Until recently, he ran an Islamic madrassa in the Ishaqabad area of Quetta, from where he led the Taliban's judiciary and headed a powerful council of Taliban clerics that issued religious edicts to justify the group's brutal insurgency in Afghanistan.
The ultra-conservative Hakeem replaces Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanekzai, who along with Baradar spearheaded negotiations with the US over the landmark agreement signed last year .
He graduated from and taught at the Darul Uloom Haqqania Islamic seminary in northwest Pakistan, which is known for preaching a fundamentalist brand of Islam and schooling a generation of fighters for the Afghan Taliban.
The so-called 'university of jihad' counts some of the world's most notorious terrorists among its alumni, including Mullah Mohammad Omar and Jalaluddin Haqqani.
Hakeem has earned a reputation as a hard-liner and has been dedicated to restoring the group's Islamic emirate, the official name of the erstwhile Taliban regime that ruled Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001.
Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai
Born in 1963 in the Baraki Barak district of Logar province, Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai is ethnically a Pashtun. He received military training in the Indian Military Academy in 1982, rose to the ranks of deputy health minister during the Taliban regime and later served as a chief peace negotiator in Doha before Mullah Hakeem.
He was also a Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Taliban regime. The 58-year-old Pashtun comes from the Stanekzai clan. He can speak five languages and had served as the Taliban's political office chief between 2015-2019. He is also known as 'Sheru'.
As a young ethnic Tajik from the northern Badakhshan province, Qari Fasihuddin serves as the military chief for the group in the north of the country. In September 2019, the then Afghan government claimed that he was killed in a military operation in Jurm district in Badakhshan province. Back then, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid denied the government claim, saying that fighting was still raging in the district and rejected the allegation as "enemy propaganda". His whereabouts are still unknown.
Muhammad Fazal Akhund
Muhammad Fazal Akhund is regarded as one of the Taliban's most ferocious frontline commanders. He was released from Guantanamo Bay after 12 years of detention in exchange for a captured US soldier Bowe Bergdahl. Fazel is a Pashtun from the Durrani tribe and a native of Uruzgan province.
After joining the Soviet-Afghan war, he served as defence minister and chief of staff during the former Taliban regime. It is claimed that he is an active person in Taliban-Al Qaeda relation. He was appointed a member of the Taliban's political team.
Mali Khan is a relative of Sirajuddin Haqqani and is believed to be the main leader in organising funds and operations in Afghanistan. He is a Pashtun from the Zadran tribe.
Khan is a senior commander of the Haqqani Network of militants that operates from North Waziristan Agency in Pakistan. The Haqqani Network has been at the forefront of insurgent activity in Afghanistan, responsible for many high-profile attacks.
In June 2011, Khan's deputy provided support to the suicide bombers responsible for the attacks on the Intercontinental Hotel in Kabul, Afghanistan. He was was captured in September 2011 during a joint NATO-Afghan forces operation in Afghanistan's Paktia Province.
He was released in 2019 along with two others to free three captured Australian and American professors.
Ibrahim Sadr earned a reputation as a long-serving Taliban military commander before handing over the reins to Omar's son. Sadr is a battle-hardened Pashtun commander from the Alakozai tribe. He had effectively built his own forces ('mahaz'), that traditionally operate across several provinces. While these forces have, in some cases, served to bolster larger Taliban operations, they have also on occasion failed to send forces in operations deemed likely to incur high casualties.
Sadar's rise to the top of the insurgency has been decades in the making. He was born in the village of Jogharan, in the southern province of Helmand, some time around the late 1960s. His home district, Sangin, is a verdant area of pomegranate trees and poppy fields that has witnessed some of the fiercest fighting of the US-led occupation.
The middle son of a well-respected Pashtun from the Alakozai tribe, Sadar spent his youth known by his birth name, Khodaidad, rather than the nom du guerre with which he would make history.
After Afghan communists seized power in a coup in Kabul in 1978 and Soviet forces invaded the country a year later, he and his family were drawn into the Islamist resistance.
Together with his father, Sadar joined Jamiat-e-Islami, one of the largest Afghan mujahideen parties and when the Afghan communist regime was toppled in 1992, he refused to get involved in the civil war that erupted between the victorious mujahideen factions. Instead, he went to Peshawar in Pakistan to study in a madrasa. There he changed his first name to Ibrahim, after one of Islam's prophets.
His whereabouts were unknown till the time negotiation was not completed.
Shahabuddin Dilawar is an ethnic Pashtun from Logar province, and his father, Syed Akbar, was a member of the Wolesi Jirga during King Zahir Shah's reign. During the Taliban's rule in Afghanistan, he held positions, including Ambassador to Pakistan, a representative in the Peshawar Consulate, Charge d'Affaires in Saudi Arabia, and Deputy Chief Justice of the Kandahar Appeal Court.
He also fought in the 1980s anti-Soviet jihad.
Until September 1998, Dilawar was the Taliban's Ambassador to Saudi Arabia. He has since led or participated in several Taliban delegations in other countries. He was the Taliban's chief delegate during talks in Chantilly, France, in December 2012. He has continued to act as a Taliban envoy since moving to Qatar, helping to set up the Taliban's office in Doha. In April 2016, Dilawar took part in a three-person Taliban delegation in Islamabad for "exploratory" meetings with Pakistani government authorities.
Dilawar is currently based in Doha and is a member of the peace negotiating team. He is fluent in Arabic, English, Dari, and Pashto and has completed his higher education.
Abdul Latif Mansoor
Abdul Latif Mansoor is a Pashtun from the Paktia province and had served as Agriculture Minister during the previous Taliban regime. He spent the majority of his life in Pakistan, where he completed his Islamic studies at the Haqqania seminary in Akora Khattak, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.
He is the nephew of Mewlavi Nasrullah Mansoor, a former jihadi commander.
He was also a member of the Taliban Supreme Council and Head of the Council's Political Commission in 2009. He was the Taliban shadow governor of Nangarhar province, Afghanistan, in 2009 and the head of the group's political commission as at mid-2009.
In May 2010, he served as a senior Taliban commander in eastern Afghanistan.
He is a member of the Taliban's peace negotiation team.
Abdul Kabeer is of Pashtun ethnicity and hails from Paktia province, which borders Pakistan, but has spent time in Baghlan province as well.
During the Taliban regime, he was governor of Kandahar and deputy director of Kabul's ministerial council on economic affairs.
He was a member of the Taliban's high leadership council in October 2006, and was appointed military commander of the eastern zone in October 2007. He was a member of the Taliban Supreme Council as at 2009. He used to collect money from drug traffickers on behalf of the Taliban. He was arrested in Pakistan in 2009, but he was later released.
He was part of the negotiating team.
Khairullah Khairkhwa is an ethnic Pashtun and belongs to the Kandahar province. During the former Taliban regime, he had served as a military commander, Interior Minister and Governor of Herat province.
When the September 11, 2001, attacks took place, Khairkhwa was posted as governor of the Taliban-run Herat Province, where former Al Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi ran a training camp.
He was directly associated with bin Laden and former Taliban leader Omar. He is closely acquainted with current Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri.
Khairkhwa was arrested by Pakistani border patrol officials in February 2002 and incarcerated in Guantanamo Bay from May 2002 to May 2014. He was one of five Taliban senior leaders transferred to Qatar as part of the Doha-mediated exchange for captive US Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl.
He was part of negotiating team.
Mohammad Fazel Mazlum
Mohammad Fazel Mazlum belongs to Uruzgan province and had studied in Pakistani seminaries. The 53-year-old is a Pashtun from Kandahar province. He was a military commander during the fight against the US, and he previously served as interior minister and governor of Herat province during Taliban rule.
He stands accused of administering a series of massacres targeting Shia and Tajik Sunnis Muslims in central and northern Afghanistan.
He was taken into custody in 2002 near the Afghan border in Pakistan and held in the Guantanamo Bay prison for nearly 12 years. He is currently residing in Doha and is a member of the Taliban peace negotiation team.
Born in 1967 in Zabul province, Noorullah Noori is a senior Taliban military commander in the northern Mazar-e Sharif province.
During the Taliban's rule, he was the governor of Balkh and Laghman, as well as the military commander of the northern zone. He was implicated for the execution of ethnic Uzbeks in May 2001 and of at least 31 ethnic Hazara civilians and Shia Muslim detainees at Robatak Pass, in north central Afghanistan, in May 2000.
He was arrested by the Panjshir-based Northern Alliance in November 2001 and detained in Guantanamo Bay from January 2002 to May 2014. He was an associate of former Taliban commander Omar, and was at one point one of 25 Taliban officials who met him most frequently.
He was part of negotiation team.
Amir Khan Muttaqi
Amir Khan Muttaqi is ethnically Pashtun from Paktia but has lived in Zabul, Kandahar, and Helmand provinces. During the Taliban regime, he was the minister of culture, information, and education. He had also served as a Taliban representative in UN-led talks during the Taliban regime.
He was also a member of a regional Taliban Council in June 2007.
Muttaqi is close to Taliban chief Haibatullah, having served as his personnel secretary before being appointed to the Doha negotiating team.
Currently, Muttaqi is the head of a Taliban commission that oversees government forces who surrender to the insurgents.
Abdul Haq Waseeq
Abdul Haq Waseeq, a resident of Khogyano district in Ghazni province, is 49 years old and had completed his religious studies from Zia-ul-Madares in Pakistan's Quetta City.
He was assistant officer of intelligence during the Taliban regime. Waseeq was arrested in the Muqar district of Ghazni province in 2001 and was sent to Guantanamo Bay. He was released in a prisoners swap deal after spending 12-years in the US military detention centre.
He was present in the US-Taliban talks that lasted for 11 months and currently is a member of the Taliban negotiating team. He lives in Qatar with his family.
Matiulhaq Khales is a Pashtun from the province of Nangarhar. He is the son of Maulvi Younas Khales, a former jihadi commander who founded the Hizb-e-Islami (Khales group), the same as Gulbuddin Hekmatyar's party. The two are commonly differentiated as Hizb-e Islami (Khales) and Hizb-e-Islami (Gulbuddin). After the overthrow of Mohammad Zahir Shah by Mohammad Daoud in 1973, Khales fled to Pakistan and joined Hekmatyar's Islamic Party (Hezb-e Islami). After the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, Khales broke with Hekmatyar and established his own party (Hizb-e-Islami Khales).
His son Maulvi Matiulhaq Khales completed his bachelor's degree from the Madina Monawwara in Saudi Arabia. He had created an armed group called Torabora Mahaz for some time. In 2016, he pledged allegiance to the Taliban. Maulvi Matiulhaq Khales is currently a member of the Taliban negotiating team.
Mohammad Naeem is from Maidan Wardak province. He studied at the Darul Uloom Haqqani seminary in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, Pakistan. He received his doctorate in Arabic Literature from Islamabad's Islamic University. He is currently the spokesman for the Taliban political office in Doha.
Suhail Shaheen is from Paktia, a Pashtun-majority province in Afghanistan. He attended the Islamic University in Islamabad, and Kabul University. He is currently the spokesman for the Taliban political office in Doha. He was the editor-in-chief of the Kabul Times during the Taliban regime. He has also served as the second secretary in Afghanistan's embassy in Islamabad and as the spokesperson for the foreign ministry.
Shaheen is a fluent English speaker and prolific writer.
Anas Haqqani is son of renowned jihadi leader Jalaluddin Haqqani, founder of the Haqqani Network. Sirajuddin Haqqani, his brother, is the network's commander.
From Paktia province, Anas Haqqani is the youngest member of the Taliban's Doha negotiating team. He was arrested in 2014 and transferred to Qatar after serving six years in Bagram prison.
The Haqqani Network is directly associated links to Al Qaeda and the Taliban and has carried out a series of high-profile attacks against foreign and Afghan troops since the US invasion.
Mohammad Shirin Akhund
Mohammad Shirin Akhund was close to the Taliban supreme leader Mullah Omar. A member of the Alizai tribe from Kandahar province, he and was in charge of Omar's security. He was also the commander of military intelligence and the governor of Kandahar province.
Akhund is a long-time member of the Taliban and its leadership council the Rahbari Shura, better known as the Quetta Shura. During the US invasion, Akhund was one of the close associates of Omar who helped him escape from the province and evade coalition forces. After fleeing from coalition forces, Akhund became head of Omar's personal security for the next several years, becoming the latter's close confidant.
In 2016, he was placed in charge of overseeing the Taliban war efforts in 19 provinces in the country's east and north as part of the organisation's military committee. By 2018, a UN Security Council report described Akhund as the group's head of intelligence for the southern region, before he was moved to the shadow governorship of Kandahar in the same year during a political reshuffling of Taliban leadership by Haibatullah Akhundzada.
After the fall of Kabul on August 15, he has been appointed as the Governor of Kabul. He was a member of the negotiating team in the Taliban's office in Doha, Qatar.