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Who is Abdul Ghani Baradar, the man who led the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan?

The de facto leader of the newly declared Islamic Emirate was raised in the birthplace of his insurgent group and jailed in 2010 — until the US requested his release in 2018

  • Taliban co-founder Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, center, arrives with other members of the Taliban delegation for an international peace conference in Moscow, Russia, on March 18, 2021. (AP/Alexander Zemlianichenko, Pool, File)
    Taliban co-founder Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, center, arrives with other members of the Taliban delegation for an international peace conference in Moscow, Russia, on March 18, 2021. (AP/Alexander Zemlianichenko, Pool, File)
  • US peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad, left, and Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the Taliban group's top political leader, shake hands after signing a peace agreement between Taliban and US officials in Doha, Qatar, Saturday, Feb. 29, 2020. (AP Photo/Hussein Sayed)
    US peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad, left, and Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the Taliban group's top political leader, shake hands after signing a peace agreement between Taliban and US officials in Doha, Qatar, Saturday, Feb. 29, 2020. (AP Photo/Hussein Sayed)
  • In this March 18, 2021, photo, Taliban co-founder Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, center, with other members of the Taliban delegation, attends an international peace conference in Moscow, Russia. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko, Pool, File)
    In this March 18, 2021, photo, Taliban co-founder Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, center, with other members of the Taliban delegation, attends an international peace conference in Moscow, Russia. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko, Pool, File)
  • Secretary of State Mike Pompeo meets with Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, head of the Taliban's peace negotiation team, amid talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government, Nov. 21, 2020, in Doha, Qatar. (AP/Patrick Semansky, Pool)
    Secretary of State Mike Pompeo meets with Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, head of the Taliban's peace negotiation team, amid talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government, Nov. 21, 2020, in Doha, Qatar. (AP/Patrick Semansky, Pool)

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.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo meets with Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, head of the Taliban’s peace negotiation team, amid talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government, November 21, 2020, in Doha, Qatar. (AP/Patrick Semansky, Pool)

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.

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