Taliban says co-founder Abdul Ghani Baradar has arrived in Afghanistan

KABUL (Axios): Taliban co-founder Abdul Ghani Baradar, the militant group’s political leader, arrived in Afghanistan on Tuesday for the first time in more than two decades, according to a Taliban spokesman.

Why it matters: It’s still unclear who will lead the new Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan as president, but Baradar is widely viewed as the public face of the Taliban movement.

  • His arrival in Kandahar came as spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid held the Taliban’s first news conference since capturing Kabul.
  • The group’s mysterious spiritual leader, Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada, has not yet emerged.

The big picture: Baradar is the head of the Taliban’s political office and one of the chief negotiators in the failed Afghan peace talks, per Reuters.

  • He was one of the four original founders of the Taliban back in in 1994 and served in various positions of leadership from 1996 to 2001. Following the U.S. invasion and the Taliban’s fall, he fled to Pakistan, per Al Jazeera.
  • Baradar was captured by Pakistani forces in Karachi in 2010. He was released from prison in 2018 at the request of U.S. envoy Zalmay Khalilzad so that he could help lead the peace negotiations, the Guardian reports.
  • Baradar’s release from prison was intended as a gesture of goodwill to get the Taliban to come to the negotiating table, per NPR.

What they’re saying: Baradar became the highest-ranking Taliban leader to address the group’s victory on Sunday, urging humility following the unexpectedly swift collapse of the Afghan government and pledging to now “serve and secure our people.”

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