The Afghan Taliban’s top leaders

Over the past two months, Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency has captured four senior leaders of the Afghan Taliban, including Mullah Omar’s deputy who served as the head of the top shura, the leader of a regional shura, and two shadow governors. These captures, combined with the US-led offensive in Helmand which will expand into Kandahar and the Afghan East later this year, have given rise to reports of the potential collapse of the group.

The Afghan Taliban’s leadership council and its regional shuras and committees have weathered the capture and death of senior leaders in the past. The Taliban have a deep bench of leaders with experience ranging back to the rise of the Taliban movement in the early 1990s. On prior occasions, younger commanders are known to have stepped into the place of killed or captured leaders. It remains to be seen if the sustained US offensive and possible future detentions in Pakistan will grind down the Taliban’s leadership cadre.

This report looks at the Afghan Taliban’s top leadership council, the Quetta Shura; its four regional military councils; the 10 committees; and existing as well as killed or captured members of the shura. Because the Taliban is a deliberately opaque movement, it is difficult to gain real-time intelligence on the structure of the Taliban command. The following information on the structure of the Taliban and its key leaders has been gathered from press reports and studies on the Taliban, and from discussions with US intelligence officials.

The Afghan Taliban leadership council

The Afghan Taliban leadership council, or rahbari shura, is often referred to as the Quetta Shura, as it is based in the Pakistani city of the same name. The Quetta Shura provides direction to the four regional military shuras and the 10 committees. The Quetta Shura is ultimately led by Mullah Mohammed Omar, the ‘leader of the faithful,’ who is the top leader of the Taliban, but Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar directed the Quetta Shura. Baradar was the Afghan Taliban’s second in command and the group’s operational commander who was detained in Karachi sometime in January or February 2010. Over the past several months, members of the Quetta Shura have been reported to be relocating to Karachi to avoid potential US airstrikes.

Regional military shuras

The Afghan Taliban have assigned regional military shuras for four major geographical areas of operations. The shuras are named after the areas in which they are based; note that all four of the regional military shuras are based in Pakistan (Quetta, Peshawar, Miramshah in North Waziristan, and Gerdi Jangal in Baluchistan).

Quetta Regional Military Shura – This military shura, like the Taliban’s top council, takes its name from its base in the city of Quetta in Pakistan’s Baluchistan province. The Quetta Regional Military Shura directs activities in southern and western Afghanistan. It is currently led by Hafez Majid.

Peshawar Regional Military Shura – Based in the city of Peshawar in Pakistan’s Northwest Frontier Province, the Peshawar Regional Military Shura directs activities in eastern and northeastern Afghanistan. Sheikh Mohammed Aminullah is thought to currently lead the Peshawar shura. he replaced Abdul Latif Mansur sometime in early 2011. It was led by Maulvi Abdul Kabir before his arrest in Pakistan in February 2010.

Miramshah Regional Military Shura – Based in Miramshah, the main town in Pakistan’s Taliban-controlled tribal agency of North Waziristan, the Miramshah Regional Military Shura directs activities in southeastern Afghanistan, including the provinces of Paktika, Paktia, Khost, Logar, and Wardak. The Miramshah Regional Military Shura is led by Siraj Haqqani, the son of Jalaluddin Haqqani.

Gerdi Jangal Regional Military Shura – Based in the Gerdi Jangal refugee camp in Baluchistan, this regional military shura focuses exclusively on Helmand Province and perhaps Nimroz province. The Gerdi Jangal Regional Military Shura is led by Mullah Adbul Zakir.

The 10 committees

Along with the four regional commands, the Afghan Taliban have 10 committees which address specific issues. Some of the members of the committees are also members of the Quetta Shura.

Military – This committee is led by Mullah Zakir. Mullah Nasir, the former shadow governor of Ghazni, had previously served as the military chief.

Ulema Council – Also known as the religious committee, it is currently led by Mawlawi Abdul Ali.

Finance – This committee is led by Gul Agha Ishakzai.

Political Affairs – This committee is reported to have been led by Maulvi Abdul Kabir before his capture in February 2010. His replacement is not yet known.

Culture and Information – This committee, which deals with Taliban propaganda, is led by Amir Khan Mutaqqi.

Interior Affairs – This committee is led by Mullah Abdul Jalil.

Prisoners and Refugees – This committee is led by Mawlawi Wali Jan.

Education – This committee is led by Mawlawi Ahmad Jan, however it may have been disbanded.

Recruitment – This committee was led by Mullah Ustad Mohammad Yasir before he was arrested in Peshawar in January 2009. Yasir’s replacement is not known.

Repatriation Committee – The leader of this committee is not known.

Known active members of the Quetta Shura

The list below consists of the known members of the Quetta Shura. There may be additional members who are not listed, while some leaders on this list may no longer be on the shura.

Hafiz Abdul Majeed is the current leader of the Quetta Regional Military Shura. He served as the Taliban’s intelligence chief.

Mullah Mohammad Hassan Akhund was the governor of Kandahar and the Minister of Foreign Affairs during Taliban rule in Afghanistan.

Mullah Mohammad Hassan Rehmani is considered to be very close to Mullah Omar. Rehmani has been described as his “shadow.” He was the governor of Kandahar province during the reign of the Taliban.

Mullah Abdul Qayum Zakir is the head of the Gerdi Jangal Regional Military Shura (Helmand and Nimroz provinces) and the Taliban’s ‘surge’ commander in the South. Zakir is a former detainee of the Guantanamo Bay detention facility in Cuba who currently serves as the Taliban’s ‘surge commander’ in the Afghan South.

Agha Jan Mohtasim is the former Finance Minister during the Taliban regime and the son-in-law of Mullah Omar. Mohtasim is a close confidant of Omar and thought to be a possible successor to Mullah Baradar.

Amir Khan Muttaqi is the chief of the Information and Culture Committee.

Siraj Haqqani is the leader of the Miramshah Regional Military Shura and the commander of the Haqqani Network. He is also the Taliban’s regional governor of Paktika, Paktia, and Khost.

Mullah Mohammad Rasul was the governor of Nimroz province during the reign of the Taliban.

Gul Agha Ishakzai is the chief of the Finance Committee. He served as Mullah Omar’s personal financial secretary and was one of Omar’s closest advisers.

Abdul Latif Mansur is the commander of the Abdul Latif Mansur Network in Paktika, Paktia, and Khost. He serves on the Miramshah Shura and was the former Minister of Agriculture for the Taliban regime. Mansur is thought to lead the Peshawar Regional Military Shura.

Mullah Abdur Razzaq Akhundzada is the former corps commander for northern Afghanistan. He also served as the Taliban regime’s Interior Minister.

Maulvi Hamdullah is the Taliban representative for the Gulf region. Hamdullah is considered to have been since 1994 one of Mullah Omar’s most confidential aides. In addition, Hamdullah led the Finance Department in Kandahar during Taliban rule from 1994 until November 2001.

Mullah Akhtar Mohammed Mansour is the former Minister of Civil Aviation and Transportation, and former shadow governor of Kandahar who is considered to be a possible successor to Baradar.

Maulvi Qudratullah Jamal runs an investigative committee that deals with complaints from Afghan citizens against local Taliban personnel. Jamal also operates as a liaison to the Taliban’s global supporters. He served as the Taliban’s chief of propaganda from 2002-2005.

Maulvi Aminullah is the Taliban commander for Uruzgan province.

Mullah Abdul Jalil is the head of the Taliban’s Interior Affairs Committee.

Qari Talha is the chief of Kabul operations for the Taliban.

Sheikh Abdul Mana Niyazi is the Taliban shadow governor for Herat province.

Shura and committee members reported killed or captured:

Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar directed the Quetta Shura. Baradar was the Afghan Taliban’s second in command and the group’s operational commander, and was detained in Karachi sometime in January or February 2010.

Maulvi Abdul Kabir led the Peshawar Regional Military Council before he was captured by Pakistani intelligence in February 2010. He served as the Taliban’s former shadow governor of the eastern Afghan province of Nangarhar, as well as the governor of Nangarhar during the Taliban’s reign.

Mullah Mir Mohammed served as the shadow governor in the northern province of Baghlan. He was detained in February 2010.

Mullah Abdul Salam served as the shadow governor in the northern province of Kunduz. He was detained in February 2010.

Mullah Dadullah Akhund was the Taliban’s top military commander in the South. He was killed in May 2007 by British special forces in Helmand province.

Akhtar Mohammad Osmani was a member of the Quetta Shura and was the Taliban’s chief of military operations in the provinces of Uruzgan, Nimroz, Kandahar, Farah, Herat, and Helmand, as well as a top aide to Mullah Omar. He also personally vouched for the safety of Osama bin Laden and Mullah Omar. He was killed by Coalition forces while traveling near the Pakistani border in December 2006.

Mullah Obaidullah Akhund was the Taliban Defense Minister during the reign of the Taliban from 1996 until the US toppled the government in the fall of 2001. He was close to Mullah Omar. His status is uncertain; he has been reported to have been arrested and released several times by Pakistani security forces. He was last reported in Pakistani custody in February 2008.

Mullah Mansur Dadullah Akhund, who is also known as Mullah Bakht Mohammed, replaced his brother Mullah Dadullah Akhund as the top commander in the South during the summer of 2007. His status is uncertain; he was last reported to have been arrested by Pakistani security forces in January 2008 but is thought to have been exchanged as part of a hostage deal.

Anwarul Haq Mujahid was a member of the Peshawar Regional Military Shura and the commander of the Tora Bora Military Front, which is based in Nangarhar province. He was detained in Peshawar in June 2009. Mujahid is the son of Maulvi Mohammed Yunis Khalis, a senior mujahedeen leader who was instrumental in welcoming Osama bin Laden into Afghanistan after he was ejected from the Sudan in 1996.

Mullah Ustad Mohammed Yasir was the chief of the Recruitment Committee and a Taliban spokesman before he was arrested in Peshawar in January 2009.

Mullah Younis, who is also known as Akhunzada Popalzai, was a former shadow governor of Zabul. He served as a police chief in Kabul during Taliban rule. He was captured in Karachi in February 2010.


“The Other Side,”Afghanistan Analysis Network

“The Taliban Biography, The Structure and Leadership of the Taliban 1996-2002,” George Washington University’s National Security Archive

“The Taliban: An Organizational Analysis,” Military Review

“Quetta-based Taliban move to Karachi,” The Nation

Treasury Targets Taliban and Haqqani Network Leadership: Treasury Designates Three Financiers Operating in Afghanistan and Pakistan, US Treasury Department

Correction: Mullah Akhtar Mohammed Mansour was initially reported as being killed in Helmand province by the British in June 2009, but he is still alive.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

Tags: ,


  • Zeissa says:

    Thank you!
    Was about time you made this article though (finally).

  • Bill Roggio says:

    This information doesn’t exactly fall off the tree. Some things do take time.

  • Mr T says:

    Very nice compilation Bill. It makes it much clearer. I hope our coalition can fathom this info. I see a lot of targets.

  • want to copy paste this article in my blog. Hope u r ok with this. Earlier I used to take excerpts from your articles and gave the relevant credits. But this is for the whole article.
    Do let me know – Thanks

  • TimSln says:

    Thanks Bill! Excellent piece of work.

  • charley says:

    thank you for this effort. it’s exactly what i was hoping someone would do. i am sure it was a monumental task. if you choose to update it in the future, may i recommend you add a piece that places the photos you have on a map of the region that individual is associated with. again thank you.

  • TomEgatherion says:

    Bill, thank you! This is fantastic and extraordinarily helpful. I’m sure it took quite a while to compile all the data, but it was worth it.

  • Shirley Freeman says:

    Dear Bill, What a great piece! Thank you.
    Re Zakir, what muddled thinking in our nation’s leadership led to release of this prisoner, who is now leading his army against our forces fighting in Helmand Province. Previously, prisoners of war were held until the end of the war. Just because this war is longer than the others, why does that justify releasing prisoners to re-join the fight against our sons and daughters? How foolish! Bush or Obama!

  • JohnnyB says:

    Bill: Wonderful reporting once again. Wow. Thanks for digging out this information.
    I am with you in thinking that there are lots of fighters that can step into leadership roles and carry on when they lose “commanders”.
    Thanks again for the fine job. I’ll post a link to your story from my blog.

  • Zeissa says:

    Okay, sorry… was just surprised this hadn’t been around for months, but I suppose like you say their opaque organization does not do well with letting people know.

  • ArneFufkin says:

    This is the definitive playbill identifying an ugly cast of characters. Hopefully most will be captured or killed at this time next year.

  • jayc says:

    Bill, thank you for the most informative analysis of the Taliban. Without seeming like a do-do, a lot of the names used by them appear to be honorific or professional titles vice their real name. I know the meaning of a couple of these, but could anyone please expound on the following? Thanks.
    …and any that I missed…

  • Bill Roggio says:

    Thanks everyone for the kind words. I really appreciate them and am grateful for your support.
    Zeissa, there really is no need to apologize. I fully understand. On my end, I get frustrated that I often can’t do these things quicker.
    Just a little inside baseball: I’ve been compiling/working on this for many, many months. I had a good bit of the data but not enough to satisfy me that I had a solid look at the leadership (I’d guess I was in the 60% range of having a decent picture of key leaders and committees, the main holdup). Then very recently I had had a couple of really big breaks from some Friends Who Cannot Be Named (particularly You), which I was able to corroborate once I knew what I was looking at. Once I had that it was off to the races. Now I’d say this is probably 80-90 percent complete, which is within my comfort level. As I noted there are many open questions and much uncertainty, but I think this picture is a much better picture than one I could have drawn say 3 months ago. I think the readers of LWJ deserve me doing my best.
    I’ve encountered this situation in the past; the report/presentation on Iranian Qods Force ops in Iraq back in the fall of 2007 is the one that immediately comes to my mind. I tracked a bunch of items and felt I had a good picture, but it wasn’t good enough. Then some really solid intel came across my desk and it was game on from there.
    Probably more than you all wanted to know but I wanted to share one of the interesting things that happen while trying to do this job. Well, interesting to me anyway.

  • Bill Roggio says:

    Abu = father of
    Amir = commander or leader
    Maulvi = an expert in Islamic law, often a respectful honorific
    Mullah = again an honorific, for someone who teaches Islamic law, or preaches or is knowledgeable
    Qari = again an honorific, for someone who can recite or teach the Koran
    Sheikh = leader of a village, family, or tribe
    Yeah, LWJ should start a dictionary…. I am one step behind on this one.

  • jayc says:

    Thanks, Bill. Sometimes one thinks in a westernized military sense, equating their titles with rank structure in the armed forces vice religious perspective. Perhaps you could “enlist” DJ with any future dictionary type applications, he seems really good at the OOB breakdowns (as you are).

  • KnightHawk says:

    Very informative piece, thanks Bill!

  • Paul says:

    Thanks for your site.Even more info than i find on Rantburg.
    Do you feel the recent arrests is a change in attitude of the ISI or as i read by B Raman that the ISI are arresting the old guard who are up for peace talks and replace them with more radical younger leaders?

  • Stu says:

    Amazing trove of intelligence. Much here to study and note for future reference. I hope our military has every one of these killers in their crosshairs. An asde, if the suspects are reading their own names at this moment, a little prayer: may your twisted god of death grant you entrance into your brotherhood of deceased murderers soon! For now, be proud you made it to this list.

  • Oz says:

    Bill very interesting post, I was wondering what hapened to dadullahs brother’s capture. a few additions which I’m sure you’re already aware of: sheikh or “shaykh” can also mean islamic scholar depending on context.
    Also “abu” typically means “father of” followed by the name of the first child (usually son). E.g. Abu abdullah = father of Abdullah. Although commonly used by Muslims these are also the nom de guerre of choice for militants.
    Feel free to add to your post if you like no need to post this.

  • Bill Roggio says:

    Paul, this pretty much sums up my view on the Baradar capture:
    I spoke to a couple of sources that said the arrest was indeed a luck accident.

  • GWTalib says:

    Forgetting Mullah Akhtar Mohammed Mansour? Arguably more important than Berader ever was, because of his closer connections to the Baluchi, and hence, the narcotics.

  • Bill Roggio says:

    Mullah Akhtar Mohammed Mansour = Mullah Mansur Dadullah Akhund
    He is mentioned.

  • Great job, Bill.
    Just curious, did you run this list by the intelligence officers in Pakistani embassy?
    Would like to?:)-

  • GWTalib says:

    My apologies, I should have been clearer. I meant Akhtar Mohammad Mansour, the former Minister of Civil Aviation from Maiwand. Bakht Mohammed, Dadullah’s brother, was much lower on the totem pole. (God, I hate sourcing Newsweek…)
    But for that matter, this highlights the difficulty of our CT folks in trying to keep track of who’s who in the zoo…Thoughts?
    (and an addition to your list of honorifics: Qazi = judge)

  • Bill Roggio says:

    This is the second time in 4 days I confused Mullah Mansur Dadullah Akhund (also known as Mullah Bakht Mohamamd) with Mullah Akhtar Mohammed Mansour. I hate that. Due to this, the latter was kept off the list.
    I have added Mullah Akhtar Mohammed Mansour to the list, he is said to have been a possible successor to Baradar. Thank you.
    And yes, this name mash does cause some complications. As we can see right here.

  • Marlin says:

    The (supposedly) captured Taliban leader mentioned in this article is not in your list. While I can understand the Karachi police not being informed, it certainly would be interesting to know if this is true, and if it is, exactly what’s driving all this intelligence and willingness of the Pakistanis to cooperate.

    The officials from intelligence agencies claimed to have rounded up a key Taliban commander belonging to a defunct outfit here in Lasbela locality of Karachi and recovered from his possession, heavy amount of arms, exclusives, computer CDs and literature, Geo news reported on Tuesday night.
    However, Karachi police denied confirmation of arrest, saying they were uninformed of the incident.
    According to sources, the officials of intelligence agencies carried out raid on a house located in Lasbela locality and as a result, a top commander, associated with a defunct outfit was nabbed, who was later identified as Umar Abdul Rehman alias Selab (flood).

    Geo TV: Key Taliban commander captured in Karachi

  • Erik says:

    Really nice work.
    On an off-hunch though, I’m betting you that list will be turned on it’s head over the next 6-12 months.

  • Jimmy says:

    Excellent work, Bill. Thank you. Thats exactly why I read LWJ first thing every morning 🙂

  • T Ruth says:

    According to Saleem Shahzad, the Brother & Co arrests are for Kiyani to score brownie points in order to desreve an extn beyond his retirement due Nov ’10.
    I must say this did cross my mind. As did that he wants to collect the tens of millions o/s under the coalition fund without further ado and questions by the US. His bonus, self-awarded, is part of that.
    Sometimes big decisions get made based on narrow incentives. Human beings, after all!

  • Tyler says:

    CSM exclusively reporting that Mullah Abdul Qayum Zakir, Mullah Mohammad Hassan Akhund, and Mullah Abdur Razzaq Akhundzada and others have been captured in recent days by Pakistani forces along with Baradar, Zakir, etc.
    All names on Bill’s excellent list of active Quetta Shura Council members.

  • tjg says:

    This is great work BR, all these names are associated with families and real human conditions. We are going to kill them all. What good will this do! Our country is in a world of hurt that started before 911. The claimed shift in the ideological stance of Taliban leader Mullah Omar toward pan-Islamism is actually coming from Saudi Arabia. I know you will not post this because it rubs you as foolish, but that young ex-marine state department fellow was right. We are on a fools errand. We cannot afford this mistake again. The US is spending ourselves out of existence. You seem like a smart man and I read your blog everyday. I’m really worried that your not looking at the true war. Have you visited our southern border lately? I have, across from Douglas, Az, Noco Az. Raging gun battles and dozens of people killed. The Taliban did not attack the US and according to Tim at freerangeinternational they are not that bright when it comes to military strategy. What about the drug flow from that (afph/Pak) region? According to the UN and DEA it has never been greater. Who is pocketing all that cash? Ask yourself, who is the real enemy and why. Loved the Hamid Gul video. Choos,

  • Bill Roggio says:

    I am being told from multiple channels (sources, watchers, and even a few journalists) to be cautious on the CSM report. Also I do not believe I have the last two listed in the CSM report. As best as I can make out, here is who I think they are:
    Mullah Ahmed Jan Akhunzada =
    Mullah Ahmed Jan Akhund (minister of water and electricity)
    Mullah Abdul Raouf (or Rauf) = the former Taliban governor of Paktia province. Currently a military commander in the northeast.
    I don’t have any confirmation on that either.
    As I noted in the report, there may be additional members of the shura or committees that are not listed.
    I am going to be patient on the CSM report.

  • Render says:

    TJG –
    Italy had nothing to do with Pearl Harbor and wasn’t all that bright regarding military strategy either.
    The Texas Rangers are not just a baseball team.
    Ever heard of a place called Fort Hood? Do you know who is based there?
    I’ve been to the Arizona border region recently too (thanks K). It’s a problem but it is not an issue compared to the Taliban/al-Q alliance.
    We are not “spending” ourselves out of existence. We are borrowing ourselves into a massive debt that sooner or later we are going to default on.
    So how come you didn’t post the exact same comment over on FRI?

  • GWTalib says:

    TJG – that ‘bright young ex-marine’ publicly resigned because he got assigned to arguably the lousiest, poorest, most geographically challenging province in Afghanistan, with a low population density and little strategic importance to the ISAF mission. Zabul sucks. Trust me, I’ve been there. Consequently, his mission received very little funding and very little attention. He was dissatisfied and saw little opportunity for personal advancement, especially as a State Department temporary hire. Instead of being a professional and sticking it out til the end of his contract, he decided to get in a few digs on his way out the door. I guarantee, Matthew Hoh would never have resigned had he been assigned to Helmand, Kandahar, Khowst or Nangahar, or any of the more high-profile State Department jobs. Unfortunately, not every job is going to be glamorous. Zabul is, to put it euphemistically, “an ugly job, but somebody’s gotta do it.” Hoh is a joke, and his resignation letter is hardly ‘bright’.
    As for Tim at freerangeinternational, I think he would probably note that tactical proficiency from Taliban squad to squad varies wildly, is leader-dependent and is typically significantly higher when Al Qa’eda fighters are incorporated into the units. So let’s not underestimate their capabilities unless you’re willing to put on body armor and step outside the wire.

  • Tyler says:

    Yeah I messed up the names on the last two.
    Interesting that all the major reports of capture have come in the form of ‘exclusives’ to different non-wire service publications. NYT got Baradar, Fox got Kabir (a lot of media played catch up here), Newsweek got Salam, and now possibly Zakir & co. to CSM. Someone’s spreading the news around.

  • Bill Roggio says:

    The news on Kabir actually broke at an Afghan newspaper a full day before Fox was tipped off. I had a tip on that but couldn’t get enough info to run with it. We’ll see about the CSM report. Here’s hoping it is correct.

  • charley says:

    Another to add:
    Agha Jan Mutasim, the Taliban’s head of political affairs;
    Article on supposed Pakistani change of heart…

  • Cid says:

    Thank you for this informative article of supreme journalism.
    You should become a CIA SAD operative.

  • Ebk says:

    Excellent article, Bill. I hope the DoD pays you for this one

  • Gran Hewad says:

    This is a nice peace,
    I would like to clarify the correction, the one who was killed in June 2009 in Helmand was Mulah Akhtar Mohammad Osmani not Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour.

  • Aatif Sheikh says:

    I’m trying to find out the Taliban command structure at the provincial and district level. Anyone have some insight or references that I could use?

  • MMA Houston says:

    Hi Bill,
    Thank you for this informative article of supreme journalism. I enjoyed reading everything. Thanks for sharing.

  • Bob Kausen says:

    It’s been a long time amigo since the little pocket
    Canon Digital..Looks like it’s going well and I’m
    glad for that.. I’ll still take a picture though….

  • Hi Bill,
    Its nice to see a decent discussion here on the war without the partisan debates. Anyone have any idea why we were able to deal the the Afghans quciker and more successfully than the Russians back in the 80s?

  • Ross says:

    TJG –
    Italy had nothing to do with Pearl Harbor and wasn’t all that bright regarding military strategy either.
    The Texas Rangers are not just a baseball team.
    Ever heard of a place called Fort Hood? Do you know who is based there?
    I’ve been to the Arizona border region recently too (thanks K). It’s a problem but it is not an issue compared to the Taliban/al-Q alliance.
    We are not “spending” ourselves out of existence. We are borrowing ourselves into a massive debt that sooner or later we are going to default on.
    So how come you didn’t post the exact same comment over on FRI?
    Read more:


Islamic state



Al shabaab

Boko Haram