Freed from a Pakistani jail at the request of the United States in just 2018, Taliban leader Abdul Ghani Baradar emerged on Sunday as the victor of a 20-year war.
Baradar was born in the Afghani province of Uruzgan in 1968, and was raised in Kandahar — the birthplace of the Taliban movement.
Like most Afghans, Baradar’s life was forever altered by the Soviet invasion of the country in the late 1970s, which transformed him into an insurgent.
He was believed to have fought side-by-side with the one-eyed cleric, Mullah Omar, the Afghan mujahid commander who later led the insurgent group when it founded the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan in 1996.
The two would go on to found the Taliban movement in the early 1990s, amid the chaos and corruption of the civil war that erupted after the Soviet withdrawal.
With the US invasion and the Taliban’s collapse in 2001, Baradar went into hiding, and was said to have remained active in the Taliban’s leadership in exile.
At the same time, Baradar was believed to have been among a small group of insurgents who approached interim Afghan leader Hamid Karzai with a letter outlining a potential deal that would have seen the militants recognize the new administration.
Arrested in Pakistan in 2010, Baradar was kept in custody, until pressure from the United States saw him freed in 2018 and relocated to Qatar.
That was where he was appointed head of the Taliban’s political office, and oversaw the signing of the withdrawal agreement with the Americans.
In February 2020, Baradar was present during the signing of the Doha Agreement, under which the US would draw its forces down; in return, the Taliban promised not to let extremists use the country as a staging ground for attacking the US or its allies.
The insurgents waited until most US troops had left Afghanistan before embarking on an offensive to take over the country.
In a stunning rout, the Taliban seized nearly all of Afghanistan in just over a week, despite the billions of dollars spent by the US and NATO over nearly 20 years to build up Afghan security forces.
The Taliban swept into Afghanistan’s capital Sunday, after the government collapsed and the embattled president had joined an exodus of his fellow citizens and foreigners.
Baradar is now the de facto president of the newly declared Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.