Taleban co-founder Baradar in Kabul for talks to set up government

A senior Taleban official said that Mr Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar would meet "jihadi leaders and politicians for an inclusive government set-up". PHOTO: AFP

KABUL (AFP) - Taleban co-founder Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar arrived in Kabul on Saturday (Aug 21) for talks on establishing a new "inclusive" government in Afghanistan, a senior official said.

Other senior Taleban leaders seen in the capital in recent days include Khalil Haqqani - one of America's most wanted terrorists with a US$5 million (S$6.8 million) bounty on his head.

Pro-Taleban social media feeds showed Haqqani meeting Mr Gulbuddin Hekmatyar - a former bitter rival during the brutal civil war of the early 1990s, but still influential in Afghan politics.

A senior Taleban official told AFP that Mr Baradar would meet "jihadi leaders and politicians for an inclusive government set-up".

Mr Baradar arrived in Afghanistan last Tuesday from Qatar, choosing to touch down in the country's second-biggest city Kandahar - the Taleban's spiritual birthplace.

Within hours of his return, the group announced its rule would be "different" this time.

The Taleban have said they want this iteration of their government to be "inclusive", but have given few details of who it would include.

Arrested in Pakistan in 2010, Mr Baradar was in custody until pressure from the United States saw him freed in 2018 and relocated to Qatar.

He was appointed head of the Taleban's political office in Doha, where he oversaw the signing of the agreement that led to the agreement for US forces to withdraw and end their 20-year campaign.

The Taleban scotched any hopes of a negotiated peace deal with the Afghan government by overrunning the country in under two weeks - a lightning offensive that ended with them taking Kabul unopposed last Sunday.

On Friday, Khalil Haqqani - the uncle of Taleban deputy leader Sirajuddin Haqqani - was seen leading prayers at a mosque in Kabul.

Another key leader of the so-called Haqqani network - Mr Anas Haqqani - was also in the capital and had met former president Hamid Karzai and Mr Abdullah Abdullah, who led the overall peace process for the previous administration.

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