Abdul Ghani Baradar
Place of Birth: Afghanistan;
Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, also called Mullah Baradar Akhund or Mullah Brother, is a co-founder of the Taliban movement in Afghanistan. He was the deputy of Mullah Mohammed Omar.
Baradar was captured in Pakistan by a team of Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) officers in February 2010 and was released on 24 October 2018 at the request of the United States.
Early life and Taliban activities:
Baradar was born in 1968 in the Weetmak village of Deh Rahwod District in Oruzgan Province of Afghanistan. He is a Durrani Pashtun of the Popalzai tribe. He fought during the 1980s in the Soviet-Afghan War in Kandahar (mainly in the Panjwayi area) and served in the Afghan mujahideen against the Soviet-backed Afghan government.
He later operated a madrassa in Maiwand, Kandahar Province, alongside his former commander, Mohammad Omar. According to Western media, Omar and Baradar may be brothers-in-law via marriage to two sisters. In 1994, he helped Omar found the Taliban in southern Afghanistan.
During Taliban rule (1996-2001), Baradar held a variety of posts. He was reportedly governor of Herat and Nimruz provinces, and/or the Corps Commander for western Afghanistan. An unclassified U.S. State Department document lists him as the former Deputy Chief of Army Staff and Commander of Central Army Corps, Kabul while Interpol states that he was the Taliban’s Deputy Minister of Defense.
War in Afghanistan:
Following the September 11, 2001 attacks, the United States invaded Afghanistan and deposed the Taliban with the help of Afghan forces. Baradar fought against the U.S-supported Northern Alliance and, according to Newsweek, “hopped on a motorcycle and drove his old friend (Omar) to safety in the mountains” in November 2001 as Taliban defenses were crumbling.
One story holds that a U.S-linked Afghan force actually seized Baradar and other Taliban figures sometime that month, but Pakistani intelligence secured their release. Another story reported by Dutch journalist Bette Dam contends that Baradar actually saved Hamid Karzai’s life when the latter had entered Afghanistan to build an anti-Taliban force.
The new Afghan government was organized in accordance with the December 2001 Bonn Agreement, as Hamid Karzai served as interim leader and later President of Afghanistan. Baradar now found himself fighting international forces and the newly formed Afghan government.
Many fellow Taliban commanders were killed over the years following the initial invasion, including Baradar’s rival Mullah Dadullah who was killed in Helmand Province in 2007. Baradar eventually rose to lead the Quetta Shura and became the de facto leader of the Taliban, directing the insurgency from Pakistan. Temperament-wise he has been described as acting as “an old-fashioned Pashtun tribal head” and a consensus builder.
Despite his military activities, Baradar was reportedly behind several attempts to begin peace talks, specifically in 2004 and 2009, and widely seen as a potentially key part of a negotiated peace deal.
Detention in February 2010:
On February 8, 2010, he was captured near Karachi during a morning raid, and U.S. officials claimed the capture could represent a “turning point” in the struggle with the Taliban. Pakistan only confirmed the capture more than a week later and there was no confirmation from Pakistani officials that it was a joint U.S-Pakistani operation, in fact the Pakistani Interior Minister Rehman Malik denied that it was.
Other sources have suggested that the capture was a lucky accident, with Baradar picked up along with others in a raid based on intelligence supplied by the United States. Besides the newspaper Dawn, the story was largely ignored in the Pakistani press when it initially broke.
Although some analysts saw Baradar’s capture as a significant shift in Pakistan’s position, others claimed that Pakistan captured Baradar to stop his negotiations with the Karzai government, so that Pakistan would get a seat at the table-because an agreement between the Taliban and the Karzai government could deprive Pakistan of influence in Afghanistan.
Another view contends that Pakistani General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani is using the series of Taliban arrests to help extend his own career beyond his slated November retirement date, the theory being that this would raise his standing among American policymakers and thus press the Pakistani government to retain him.
The Afghan government was reportedly holding secret talks with Baradar and his arrest is said to have infuriated President Hamid Karzai. Despite repeated claims that Pakistan would deliver Baradar to Afghanistan if formally asked to do so, and that his extradition was underway, he was expressly excluded from the list of Taliban leaders planned to be released by Pakistan in November 2012.
Mullah Abdul Qayyum Zakir became the Taliban military leader after Baradar’s arrest. Nine Taliban leaders, not including Baradar, were released on 23 November 2012.
On 25 October 2018, the Taliban confirmed that Pakistan released Mullah Baradar. He was subsequently appointed to be the chief of the Taliban’s diplomatic office in Doha, Qatar. In February 2020, Baradar signed the agreement on the withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan on behalf of the Taliban.
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