A new report from the Foundation for Defending Democracies (FDD) Long War Journal highlighted approximately two dozen terrorists and extremist-linked individuals that are now in senior positions in the Taliban’s government.
The report comes as the Biden administration has continued to face intense backlash over its debacle in Afghanistan, which culminated in 13 U.S. troops being killed in a suicide bombing and hundreds of Americans being abandoned in a nation now effectively controlled by terrorists.
Nine of the top individuals highlighted by the Long War Journal’s report include:
- Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada is the current “Emir of the Faithful,” or top leader of the Taliban. He has served as the Taliban’s emir since 2016. At some point during the jihad against the Soviets, Akhundzada reportedly fought within the ranks of the Hezb-e-Islami group led by the mujahideen commander Yunus Khalis. After the Taliban took over most of Afghanistan, ruling from 1996 to 2001, Akhundzada was a religious scholar, judge and head of the judiciary branch. As the top judicial figure, Akhundzada issued fatwas, or religious decrees, justifying all aspects of the Taliban’s operations, including suicide attacks. His son, Hafiz Abdul Rahman, killed himself in a suicide attack against Afghan forces in Helmand province in 2017. Ayman al Zawahiri, the head of al Qaeda, swore allegiance to Akhundzada in 2016. The Taliban’s “Emir of the Faithful” has never disavowed Zawahiri’s oath.
- Mullah Mohammad Hassan Akhund is the acting head of state. … During the Taliban’s first regime from 1996 to 2001, Akhund served as the governor of Kandahar, foreign minister, and first deputy of the Taliban’s council of ministers. On behalf of the Taliban’s senior leadership, Akhund refused to turn over Osama bin Laden after al Qaeda carried out the August 1998 U.S. embassy bombings — the deadliest attack by bin Laden’s network prior to 9/11. “We will never give up Osama at any price,” Akhund said, after the U.N. threatened to impose sanctions if bin Laden wasn’t handed over. Akhund was sanctioned by the U.N. Security Council in Jan. 2001.
- Sirajuddin Haqqani is the acting interior minister. In that role, he will likely have great power within the Taliban’s newly-resurrected Islamic Emirate. Indeed, Sirajuddin issued guidance to the Taliban’s commissions and judges as the jihadists took over the country this year. Sirajuddin is the son of Jalaluddin Haqqani, who served as a commander in Yunus Khalis’s Hezb-e-Islami group, but became more widely known as a notorious powerbroker in the region. Jalaluddin was the founder of the so-called Haqqani Network, which is an integral part of the Taliban. … Sirajuddin has worked closely with Al Qaeda throughout his career, so much so that it is often difficult to tell the Haqqanis and al Qaeda apart. A team of experts working for the United Nations Security Council recently reported that Sirajuddin may even be a member of al Qaeda’s “wider” leadership. … The U.S. government has listed Sirajuddin as a specially designated global terrorist, offering a reward of up to $10 million for information leading to his capture and prosecution.
- Mullah Yaqoub is the acting defense minister. He is the son of Mullah Omar, the founder and first emir of the Taliban. Omar repeatedly refused to hand over Osama bin Laden to the U.S. both before and after the 9/11 hijackings. … In a recent video blaming America for the 9/11 hijackings, Yaqoub openly praised the Taliban’s suicide squads, saying they will continue to play a leading role in the defense of the Islamic Emirate.
- Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar is the acting first deputy head of state. Baradar cofounded the Taliban with Mullah Omar, and served at the most senior levels within the Taliban between 1996 and 2001, including as deputy minister of defense. … Baradar was sanctioned by the U.N. Security Council in Feb. 2001.
- Mullah Abdul Salam Hanafi is the acting second deputy head of state. … He was sanctioned by the U.N. Security Council in Feb. 2001, as he served as the deputy minister of education for the Taliban at the time. Years later, beginning in 2007, the Taliban named him its shadow governor for Jawzjan province. He was also “believed to be involved in drug trafficking,” according to the U.N.
- Khalil al Rahman Haqqani is the acting minister of refugees. … Khalil is a brother of Jalaluddin Haqqani and the uncle of Sirajuddin Haqqani. He has served as a key fundraiser, financier, and operational commander for the Haqqani Network. When the U.S. Treasury Department designated Khalil as a terrorist in 2011, it noted that he “acted on behalf of” al Qaeda’s military, or “Shadow Army,” in Afghanistan. In 2002, when the U.S. was hunting Osama bin Laden, Khalil deployed men “to reinforce al Qaeda elements in Paktia Province, Afghanistan.” The U.S. State Department’s Rewards for Justice Program has offered a reward of up to $5 million for information leading to his capture and prosecution.
- Mullah Taj Mir Jawad is the acting first deputy of intelligence. Jawad was a leader in what the U.S. military used to refer to as the Kabul Attack Network, which pooled fighters and resources from the Taliban, Al Qaeda, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, the Islamic Jihad Union, the Turkistan Islamic Party, and Hizb-I-Islami Gulbuddin in order to conduct attacks in and around Kabul. … Jawad is a leader within the Haqqani Network.
- Qari Fasihuddin is the acting chief of army staff. An ethnic Tajik, Fasihuddin commanded the Taliban’s forces in northern Afghanistan during the group’s final conquest in the spring and summer of 2021. He also led Taliban troops during the recent offensive in the Panjshir Valley. Fasihuddin has served as the deputy head of the Taliban’s military commission. He has ties to foreign jihadist groups such as the Turkistan Islamic Party and Jamaat Ansarullah, a Tajik terrorist organization.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki was asked about the development during a press conference on Wednesday, which comes after the administration repeatedly said they were hoping the Taliban would be “inclusive” and include women in their government.
When asked if Biden thought he foreign policy moves were a success, Psaki did not answer the question, and instead claimed that the administration does not view the Taliban as “respected and valued members of the global community.”
Four of the five extremists that were released by Democrat President Barack Obama in exchange for Bowe Bergdahl, who has been labeled as a “traitor,” are now in senior positions in the Taliban’s government.
The Long War Journal highlighted the four extremists:
- Abdul Haq Wasiq is the acting director of intelligence. Wasiq was the deputy minister of security (intelligence) during the Taliban’s first regime. He was sanctioned by the U.N. Security Council in Jan. 2001. The U.N. reported that Wasiq was a “local commander” in Nimroz and Kandahar provinces before being promoted to deputy director general of intelligence prior to 9/11. In that capacity, according to the U.N., Wasiq “was in charge of handling relations with al Qaeda-related foreign fighters and their training camps in Afghanistan.” Wasiq’s al Qaeda ties were also documented by JTF-GTMO’s analysts. U.S. military-intelligence officials found that Wasiq “utilized his office to support al Qaeda and to assist Taliban personnel elude capture” in late 2001. Wasiq also “arranged for al Qaeda personnel to train Taliban intelligence staff in intelligence methods.”
- Mohammad Fazl is the deputy defense minister. Fazl had the same role, or a similar one, in the Taliban’s first regime. … The U.N. found that Fazl “was at the Al-Farouq training camp established by al Qaeda.” Fazl “had knowledge that the Taliban provided assistance to the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan…in the form of financial, weapons and logistical support in exchange for providing the Taliban with soldiers.” The IMU worked closely with al Qaeda at the time. … According to JTF-GTMO, Fazl had “operational associations with significant al Qaeda and other extremist personnel.” Fazl allegedly conspired with Abdul al-Iraqi, one of Osama bin Laden’s chief lieutenants and the head of al Qaeda’s Arab 055 Brigade, to “coordinate an attack” on the Northern Alliance following the assassination of Ahmad Shah Massoud in Sept. 2001.
- Khairullah Khairkhwa is the acting minister for information and culture. … According to JTF-GTMO, Khairkhwa was a close confidante of Mullah Omar prior to 9/11. JTF-GTMO also cited intelligence linking Khairkhwa to Osama bin Laden and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi’s camps in Herat.
- Noorullah Noori is the acting minister of borders and tribal affairs. … Noori allegedly “fought alongside al Qaeda as a Taliban military general, against the Northern Alliance” and also “hosted al Qaeda commanders.” Along with Mohammad Fazl (below), Noori was suspected of committing “war crimes,” “including the murder of thousands of Shiite Muslims” prior to the U.S.-led invasion in 2001.
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