Mohammad Yaqoob

Mullah Mohammad Yaqoob is a senior leader within the Taliban who previously served as head of the Taliban’s military commission, which oversaw the group’s military activities in Afghanistan. Yaqoob is the eldest son of Taliban founder and former leader Mullah Mohammed Omar, who died in 2013.Ben Farmer, “Taliban founder’s son appointed military chief of insurgents,” Telegraph (London), May 7, 2020, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2020/05/07/taliban-founders-son-appointed-military-chief-insurgents/; “Taliban confirms death of Mullah Omar, names new leader,” France 24, July 30, 2015, http://www.france24.com/en/20150730-taliban-confrms-death-omar-names-new-leader-afghanistan-mansour; “Taliban appoints Mullah Omar’s eldest son as military chief,” Afghanistan Mirror, May 11, 2020, https://www.afghanistanmirror.com/taliban-appoints-mullah-omars-eldest-son-as-military-chief/. On September 7, 2021, Yaqoob was appointed defense minister of the Taliban government.Douglas Schorzman, “Who Are the Taliban’s New Government Leaders? Here’s What We Know,” New York Times, September 7, 2021, https://www.nytimes.com/article/taliban-leaders-afghanistan.html?action=click&module=RelatedLinks&pgtype=Article.

The Taliban concealed Omar’s death for two years. In 2015, the Taliban confirmed Omar had died as early as April 2013. In July 2015, the Taliban named Omar’s deputy, Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour, as the group’s new emir.“Taliban confirms death of Mullah Omar, names new leader,” France 24, July 30, 2015, http://www.france24.com/en/20150730-taliban-confrms-death-omar-names-new-leader-afghanistan-mansour. The appointment caused a rift in the Taliban as some members wanted Yaqoob to fill the leadership role and refused to follow Mansour. Yaqoob reportedly stormed out of a leadership council meeting when Mansour was selected over him, leading some other Taliban members to support him over Mansour.Jibran Ahmad, “New Afghan Taliban leader was compromise candidate: sources,” Reuters, May 25, 2016, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-afghanistan-taliban-meeting/new-afghan-taliban-leader-was-compromise-candidate-sources-idUSKCN0YG29L. Influential Pakistani clerics close with the Taliban mediated between the factions.Jibran Ahmad, “Senior Pakistan cleric offers to help Taliban heal leadership rift,” Reuters, August 6, 2015, https://www.reuters.com/article/afghanistan-taliban/senior-pakistan-cleric-offers-to-help-taliban-heal-leadership-rift-idUSKCN0QB1X520150806. That September, Yaqoob issued a statement that his father had died of natural causes in Afghanistan. He also called for unity in the Taliban.Jibran Ahmad, “Taliban’s Mullah Omar died of natural causes in Afghanistan, son says,” Reuters, September 14, 2016, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-pakistan-taliban/talibans-mullah-omar-died-of-natural-causes-in-afghanistan-son-says-idUSKCN0RE0RC20150914. Members of Yaqoob’s family reportedly sought to elevate him to his father’s leadership role but acquiesced to Mansour’s appointment in exchange for benefits. In April 2016, Yaqoob was appointed head of the Taliban’s military commission for 15 of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces and appointed to the Taliban’s Rahbari Shura (leadership council).Jibran Ahmad, “Son of Afghan Taliban founder given top council post,” Reuters, April 4, 2016, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-afghanistan-taliban-mansour/son-of-afghan-taliban-founder-given-top-council-post-idUSKCN0X121E.

Mansour subsequently died in a U.S. airstrike in May 2016. Yaqoob was reportedly considered as his replacement.Jibran Ahmad, “Taliban’s Haqqani may be even more deadly foe than Mansour,” Reuters, May 22, 2016, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-afghanistan-taliban-successor/talibans-haqqani-may-be-even-more-deadly-foe-than-mansour-idUSKCN0YD0H6; Mujib Mashal and Taimoor Shah, “Taliban’s New Leader, More Scholar Than Fighter, Is Slow to Impose Himself,” New York Times, July 11, 2016, http://www.nytimes.com/2016/07/12/world/asia/taliban-afghanistan-pakistan-mawlawi-haibatullah-akhundzada.html?ref=asia&smid=tw-nytimesworld&smtyp=cur. Fractures reportedly developed within the Taliban between supporters of Yaqoob and supporters of Haqqani Network leader Sirajuddin Haqqani, who was also vying for the leadership role.James Mackenzie, “Afghan governor sees more fighting after Taliban leader killed,” Reuters, May 23, 2016, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-afghanistan-taliban-governor/afghan-governor-sees-more-fighting-after-taliban-leader-killed-idUSKCN0YE22R. The Taliban instead chose Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada as Mansour’s successor.Mujib Mashal and Taimoor Shah, “Taliban’s New Leader, More Scholar Than Fighter, Is Slow to Impose Himself,” New York Times, July 11, 2016, http://www.nytimes.com/2016/07/12/world/asia/taliban-afghanistan-pakistan-mawlawi-haibatullah-akhundzada.html?ref=asia&smid=tw-nytimesworld&smtyp=cur. Akhundzada was reportedly a compromise choice proposed by Yaqoob. Taliban sources told Reuters there were concerns about appointing Haqqani because of his fugitive status in the United States, while Yaqoob admitted he was too young and inexperienced on the battlefield for the top role.Jibran Ahmad, “New Afghan Taliban leader was compromise candidate: sources,” Reuters, May 25, 2016, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-afghanistan-taliban-meeting/new-afghan-taliban-leader-was-compromise-candidate-sources-idUSKCN0YG29L. Yaqoob and Haqqani were both appointed as Akhundzada’s deputies.“Govt Again Calls On Taliban to Joint Peace Process,” TOLO News, May 26, 2016, https://tolonews.com/afghanistan/govt-again-calls-taliban-joint-peace-process.

In May 2020, the Taliban announced Yaqoob’s appointment as head of the group’s military commission. The appointment reunited the commission under a single leadership after it had been split into two divisions following Mansour’s death.Ben Farmer, “Taliban founder’s son appointed military chief of insurgents,” Telegraph (London), May 7, 2020, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2020/05/07/taliban-founders-son-appointed-military-chief-insurgents/; “Taliban confirms death of Mullah Omar, names new leader,” France 24, July 30, 2015, http://www.france24.com/en/20150730-taliban-confrms-death-omar-names-new-leader-afghanistan-mansour; “Taliban appoints Mullah Omar’s eldest son as military chief,” Afghanistan Mirror, May 11, 2020, https://www.afghanistanmirror.com/taliban-appoints-mullah-omars-eldest-son-as-military-chief/.

On August 6, 2021, the Taliban began an offensive against major Afghan cities with the seizure of Zaranj, capital of Nimruz province.Susannah George and Ezzatullah Mehrdad, “Taliban fighters overrun an Afghan provincial capital for the first time since withdrawal of foreign forces,” Washington Post, August 6, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2021/08/06/afghanistan-taliban-nimruz/. By August 13, the Taliban controlled 17 of Afghanistan’s 34 provincial capitals and more than two-thirds of the country.Rahim Faiez, and Joseph Krauss, “Taliban sweep across Afghanistan’s south; take 4 more cities,” Associated Press, August 13, 2021, https://apnews.com/article/middle-east-taliban-c6c8d4a41c554f36031a8131538d1402. By August 16, the Taliban laid siege to the presidential palace and took complete control of Kabul, after which the Taliban declared the war in Afghanistan had ended.“Taliban declares ‘war is over’ as president and diplomats flee Kabul,” Reuters, August 15, 2021, https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/talibans-rapid-advance-across-afghanistan-2021-08-10/.

A month following the Taliban’s offensive, on September 7, 2021, the Taliban announced the official appointments within their caretaker government. Yaqoob was named the defense minister of the acting government. The government is exclusively male, with many positions filled with veterans from their hardline movement in the early nineties.Matthieu Aikins and Jim Huylebroek, “Taliban Appoint Stalwarts to Top Government Posts,” New York Times, September 7, 2021, https://www.nytimes.com/2021/09/07/world/asia/taliban-women-protest-kabul-afghanistan.html; Kathy Gannon, “Taliban form all-male Afghan government of old guard members,” Associated Press, September 8, 2021, https://apnews.com/article/middle-east-pakistan-afghanistan-arrests-islamabad-d50b1b490d27d32eb20cc11b77c12c87; Douglas Schorzman, “Who Are the Taliban’s New Government Leaders? Here’s What We Know,” New York Times, September 7, 2021, https://www.nytimes.com/article/taliban-leaders-afghanistan.html?action=click&module=RelatedLinks&pgtype=Article.

Extremist entity
Taliban
Type(s) of Organization:
Insurgent, regional, terrorist, transnational, violent
Ideologies and Affiliations:
Deobandi, Islamist, jihadist, Pashtun, Salafi, Sunni, Wahhabi
Position(s):
Defense minister of the Taliban government

The Taliban seized power in Afghanistan in August 2021 after previously leading a violent insurgency in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The group is closely affiliated with al-Qaeda.

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