Part II: Once wanted terrorists of 9/11, now in charge of war-torn Afghanistan

New Delhi: The Taliban members, who were once designated as wanted terrorists for 9/11 attacks in the US, are now in charge of the war-torn Afghanistan.

Some of these prominent members were earlier incarcerated in the Guantanamo Bay detention centre and some in Pakistan and Afghanistan jails. They were released in the last six years once the US started back-channel talks with them for their exit from Afghanistan.

The US’ plan to hand over Afghanistan was made way back in 2012 and eventually it started taking shape and they started regrouping and taking control over Afghan territory.

A sudden pullout of the US forces gave the Taliban enough time to completely take over Afghanistan. On August 15, 2021, Taliban captured Kabul marking the end of US intervention in Afghanistan since in the 1970s.

The security establishments are fully aware that the terror group Al Qaeda has a clear link to the Taliban and however the US decided to leave the country as quickly as it can, ultimately triggering a huge humanitarian crisis.

But who are these prominent Taliban members of 2021? Most of them are the same old Taliban members which ruled from 1996 to 2001. IANS profiles some of these Taliban members.

Shahabuddin Dilawar

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

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

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.

Noorullah Noori

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

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

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

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

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.


By Sumit Kumar Singh

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