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A Key Figure Makes Symbolic Return to Afghanistan

Abdul Ghani Baradar, a former prisoner, is a co-founder of the Taliban
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 17, 2021 11:27 AM CDT
A Key Figure Makes Symbolic Return to Afghanistan
Taliban co-founder Abdul Ghani Baradar, center, arrives with other members of the Taliban delegation for an international peace conference in Moscow in March 2021.   (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko, Pool)

(Newser) – Americans might soon become more familiar with the name Abdul Ghani Baradar, a pivotal figure in the Taliban who arrived back in the country on Tuesday for the first time in a decade. Coverage:

  • A co-founder: Baradar is described as the Taliban's de facto leader by the Washington Post and the Times of Israel. Now in his 50s, Baradar co-founded the group decades ago in Kandahar with the late Mohammad Omar. The pair had fought together against the Soviets in the late 1970s.
  • His clout: "He is one of the most important people in the Taliban because he has been around since day one and has been a driving force in the key stages of the movement," Ibraheem Bahiss, a consultant on Afghanistan with the International Crisis Group, tells the Wall Street Journal. The newspaper notes that the Taliban's spiritual leader is Mullah Haibatullah Akhunzada, but Baradar seems to have become the public face of the group.

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  • The big winner? The Guardian describes Baradar as the "undisputed victor" in the 20-year war with the US. Over that span, Baradar "had the reputation of being a potent military leader and a subtle political operator." The story notes that the Obama administration, fearful of his military prowess, convinced Pakistan to arrest him in 2010.
  • Freed from prison: He remained in custody until three years ago. The Journal reports that the US pressured Pakistan to free him to help with peace negotiations, though France24 says his release came at the behest of Qatar. Either way, he participated in the talks with the White House last year that led former President Trump to announce a withdrawal date of May 2021. President Biden would extend that to September. "Negotiators describe him as quiet, contained, and difficult to read," per the Journal, but he could relied upon to help break impasses in talks.
  • An appeal: It was Baradar who released a public statement after the Taliban's victory, one in which he urged militants in the group to "show humility."
(Read more Afghanistan stories.)

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