This combination photo shows the new Afghan government's acting Prime Minister Mohammad Hasan Akhund (L) and acting Deputy Prime Minister Abdul Ghani Baradar (R). — Afghanistan Information Ministry/ Reuters

Who are the key figures in the new Taliban government?

The "acting" government announced by the Taliban comprises 33 cabinet members, headed by Mohammad Hasan Akhund.
Published September 8, 2021

The Taliban on Tuesday announced an "acting" government comprising 33 cabinet members, with Mohammad Hasan Akhund at the head and the group's co-founder Abdul Ghani Baradar in the deputy role.

Here are some facts about the main appointments:

Mohammad Hasan Akhund, acting Prime Minister

Akhund is the longtime head of Taliban’s powerful decision-making body, Rehbari Shura, or leadership council. He was first the foreign minister and then deputy prime minister during the Taliban's last rule from 1996-2001.

Like many in the Taliban leadership, Akhund derives much of his prestige from his proximity to the movement's reclusive first leader, Mullah Mohammad Omar.

He hails from Kandahar, the birthplace of the Taliban.

A UN sanctions report described him as a "close associate and political adviser" to Omar.

Akhund is highly respected within the movement, especially by its supreme leader Haibatullah Akhundzada, a Taliban source said.

Some observers see Akhund, believed to be in his mid-60s and possibly older, as more of a political than a religious figure, with his control over the leadership council also giving him a say in military affairs.

Abdul Ghani Baradar, acting Deputy Prime Minister

Baradar was once a close friend of Mullah Omar, who gave him his nom de guerre, "Baradar" or "brother".

He served as deputy defence minister when the Taliban last ruled Afghanistan.

Following the fall of the Taliban government, Baradar served as a senior military commander responsible for attacks on coalition forces, a UN sanctions notice said.

He was arrested and imprisoned in Pakistan in 2010. After his release in 2018, he headed the Taliban's political office in Doha, becoming one of the most prominent figures in peace talks with the United States.

Amir Khan Muttaqi, acting Foreign Minister

Originally from Paktia, Muttaqi calls himself a resident of Helmand.

Muttaqi served as minister of culture and information during the previous Taliban government, as well as minister of education. Muttaqi was later sent to Qatar and was appointed a member of the peace commission and negotiation team that held talks with the United States.

Neither militant commander nor religious leader, according to Taliban sources, Muttaqi is the chair of the Invitation and Guidance Commission, which during the insurgency had led efforts to get government officials and other key figures to defect.

In statements and speeches while fighting raged for control of the country, he projected a moderate voice, calling on forces holed up in provincial capitals to talk to the group to avoid fighting in urban areas.

In the weeks after the fall of Kabul, Muttaqi played a similar role with the lone holdout province of Panjshir, calling for a peaceful settlement to hostilities.

Mullah Yaqoob, acting Defence Minister

Son of the Taliban's founder Mullah Omar, Yaqoob had originally sought to succeed his father in 2015. He stormed out of the council meeting that appointed his father's successor, Mullah Akhtar Mansour, but was eventually reconciled.

Still in his early 30s and without the long combat experience of the Taliban's main battlefield commanders, he commands the loyalty of a section of the movement in Kandahar because of the prestige of his father's name.

He was named as overall head of the Taliban military commission last year, overseeing all military operations in Afghanistan and was one of three deputy leaders, along with Baradar and Sirajuddin Haqqani.

Although considered a relative moderate by some Western analysts, Taliban commanders said he was among the leaders pressing the military campaign against the cities to be stepped up in the weeks before the fall of Kabul.

Sirajuddin Haqqani, acting Interior Minister

Head of the influential Haqqani network, Sirajuddin Haqqani succeeded as its leader following the death of his father, Jalaluddin Haqqani, in 2018.

Initially backed by the United States as one of the most effective anti-Soviet militia in the 1980s, the semi-autonomous group was blamed for some of the deadliest attacks on coalition forces.

The network, whose exact status within the Taliban structure is debated, has been named a Foreign Terrorist Organisation by the United States although the Taliban itself has not.

The United Nations Sanctions Committee also has also said the group, based in the lawless frontier areas between Afghanistan and Pakistan, has close involvement in drugs production and trade.

Haqqani is one of the FBI's most wanted men, due to his involvement in suicide attacks and ties with Al Qaeda. The US State Department has offered a reward of up to $10 million for information leading to his arrest.

Zabihullah Mujahid, acting Deputy Information Minister

The long-time spokesman for the Taliban, Mujahid has for more than a decade been the key conduit for information on the group's activities, regularly posting details of suicide attacks through his Twitter account.

No photo of him existed until he gave his first press conference following the fall of Kabul last month, and for years American military intelligence believed Mujahid was a persona for several individuals running the group's media operations.