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Mullah’s rise charts Taliban’s long road back to power in Afghanistan

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AP — The Taliban’s top political leader, who made a triumphal return to Afghanistan this week, battled the US and its allies for decades but then signed a landmark peace agreement with the Trump administration.

Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar is now expected to play a key role in negotiations between the Taliban and officials from the Afghan government that the militant group deposed in its blitz across the country. The Taliban say they seek an “inclusive, Islamic” government and claim they have become more moderate since they last held power.

But many remain skeptical, and all eyes are now on Baradar, who has said little about how the group will govern but has proven pragmatic in the past.

Baradar’s biography charts the arc of the Taliban’s journey from an Islamic militia that battled warlords during the civil war in the 1990s, ruled the country in accordance with a strict interpretation of Islamic law and then waged a two-decade insurgency against the US. His experience also sheds light on the Taliban’s complicated relationship with neighboring Pakistan.

Baradar is the only surviving Taliban leader to have been personally appointed deputy by the late Taliban commander Mullah Mohammed Omar, giving Baradar near-legendary status within the movement. And he is more far more visible than the Taliban’s current supreme leader, Maulawi Hibatullah Akhunzada, who is believed to be in hiding in Pakistan and only releases occasional statements.

On Tuesday, Baradar landed in the southern Afghan city of Kandahar, the birthplace of the Taliban movement he helped found in the mid-1990s. Ending 20 years of exile, he was thronged by well-wishers as he stepped off a Qatari government aircraft and drove off in a convoy.

Mullah Baradar arrives in Kandahar – first time back in Afghanistan since 2001........

© The Times of Israel

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