‘They have reached a consensus’ – Taliban set to name supreme leader

Haibatullah Akhundzada, a key religious leader, will likely be Afghanistan’s supreme authority, newspaper says

Taliban fighters man a checkpoint | Photo: PTI

The Taliban will announce their new government in Kabul imminently, with Haibatullah Akhundzada, a religious leader, as Afghanistan’s supreme authority, a report said on Wednesday.

Akhundzada has been meeting with other Taliban leaders in Kandahar. He has been referred to as either “za’eem” or “rahbar” in official discourse, both meaning “leader”, The New York Times said. The title is similar to that of the Iranian head of state, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the newspaper said by way of comparison.

The formal announcement may come as soon as Thursday, the NYT quoted an official as saying. Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, a co-founder of the Taliban, is expected to run the day-to-day affairs as head of government, it said.

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“The consultations on forming an inclusive Afghan government within the Islamic Emirate’s leaders, with the leaders from previous government and other influential leaders have officially ended,” Bloomberg quoted Bilal Karimi, a member of the group’s cultural commission, as saying on Wednesday. “They have reached a consensus. We’re about to announce a functioning cabinet and government in a few days, not weeks.”

Mullah Mohammad Yaqoob, the son of Taliban founder Mullah Omar, and Sirajuddin Haqqani, leader of the Haqqani Network, are expected to be the supreme leader’s deputies.

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An Islamic legal scholar, Akhunzada is the Taliban’s supreme leader holding final authority over the group’s political, religious and military affairs. He is also known as the ‘Leader of the Faithful’. 

After Akhtar Mansour was killed in a US drone attack near the Afghan-Pakistan border in 2016, Akhunzada took over the group. He is believed to be 60 years old.