Who are the Taliban? For decades, the leadership of the Taliban has been shrouded in secrecy. Here’s what we know about its main players

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After taking control of Afghanistan, the Taliban are preparing to form a new government, with promises of inclusiveness and reform. But a review of the group’s leadership structure suggests that the nature of the new government may very well mirror the previous intransigent Taliban regime.

The group is led by recluse Haibatullah Akhundzada, a senior religious official in his fifties who was appointed leader after a US airstrike killed his predecessor in 2016. Hailing from the Taliban heartland of Spin Boldak, southern Sudan Kandahar province, he was involved in the mujahedeen – or holy Islamic struggle – against the Soviet invasion in the 1980s, and was appointed head of jihadist affairs in 2001, according to Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid.

His deputy, Abdul Ghani Baradar, was a prominent member of the Taliban regime when he was last in power, and as head of the group’s political committee he is currently one of the activists’ best-known leaders. Baradar returned to Afghanistan after 20 years in exile last week.

Here’s a look at what else we know about the key figures and how the Taliban power structure works.

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