The Taliban’s leader is Mawlawi Hibatullah Akhundzada.
While little is known about him, it is known he is a hardline religious scholar, and one of the first members to join the Taliban. Prior to becoming leader, his reputation is more that of a religious leader than a military commander. When the Taliban was removed from power in 2001 by the U.S. and its allies, Akhundzada became head of the group’s council of religious scholars.
Akhundzada was a senior figure within the Taliban prior to becoming leader, serving as deputy to the previous leader, Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour.
He was also a senior figure in the Taliban courts for an extended period of time, where it is believed he issued rulings in support of strict Sharia punishments, such as public executions of convicted murderers and adulterers, and amputations of those found guilty of theft.
Akhundzada was named as the Taliban’s leader in 2016 after the group’s previous leader Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour was killed in a U.S. airstrike in Pakistan. Known as the “Leader of the Faithful”, the role of the Supreme Commander is to hold final authority over the group’s political, religious and military affairs. Akhtar Mohammad Mansour, according to Taliban sources, named Akhundzada as his successor in his will.
Like we said before, little is known about him, but he has been described by a Taliban spokesman as “quiet, deeply patient, and a listener”. At present, his whereabouts are secret and remain unknown, but it is likely we will begin hearing about him more as the Taliban expands its power in Afghanistan.