Taj Mir Jawad is a senior Taliban leader who served as a senior commander for the Haqqani network—the Taliban’s most extreme military wing—and the Kabul Attack Network, an independent jihadist alliance that operated in and around the Afghan capital.Bill Roggio, “Haqqani Network’s Taj Mir Jawad subgroup targeted in raid,” Long War Journal, April 29, 2013, https://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2013/04/haqqani_networks_taj.php. Following the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan in August 2021, Jawad was appointed the first deputy to the intelligence chief of the Taliban government.“Taliban forms 33-member cabinet in Afghanistan: Full list,” Hindustan Times, September 8, 2021, https://www.hindustantimes.com/world-news/taliban-forms-33-member-cabinet-in-afghanistan-full-list-101631066722518.html.
Jawad is a veteran of the Taliban, having served as the director of intelligence in Nangarhar province during the Taliban’s first reign from 1996 until 2001.“Profiles Of Afghan Taliban Ministers – Interior Minister Is On FBI's Most Wanted List, 14 Ministers Including Prime Minister Are On UN Security Council's Terror Blacklist,” Middle East Media Research Institute, September 28, 2021, https://www.memri.org/reports/profiles-afghan-taliban-ministers-%E2%80%93-interior-minister-fbis-most-wanted-list-14-ministers. In 2001, Jawad was reportedly responsible for coordinating the kidnapping of a French journalist in Nangarhar.Jeffrey Dressler, “The Haqqani Network: A Strategic Threat,” Institute for the Study of War, March 2012, https://www.understandingwar.org/sites/default/files/Haqqani_StrategicThreatweb_29MAR_0.pdf. Following the Taliban’s fall from power in Afghanistan in 2001, the movement created a de facto governmental order that placed Taliban members—shadow officials—in control of specific areas within Afghanistan. The Taliban used these operational areas to counter the Afghan government and repel U.S. troops deployed in the country following the al-Qaeda orchestrated 9/11 attacks. Before the attacks, al-Qaeda had used Afghanistan as a safe haven to plan attacks against western targets. Following U.S. military deployment in the country, the Taliban conducted regular attacks to enforce their control among the Afghan population, resulting in two decades of political and social instability throughout Afghanistan.“Who are the Taliban,” BBC News, August 18, 2021, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-south-asia-11451718.
After the fall of the first Taliban regime, Jawad was reportedly in charge of providing equipment and resources to suicide bombers affiliated with the Taliban.“Profiles Of Afghan Taliban Ministers – Interior Minister Is On FBI's Most Wanted List, 14 Ministers Including Prime Minister Are On UN Security Council's Terror Blacklist,” Middle East Media Research Institute, September 28, 2021, https://www.memri.org/reports/profiles-afghan-taliban-ministers-%E2%80%93-interior-minister-fbis-most-wanted-list-14-ministers. From August 2010, Jawad co-led a Taliban affiliate group called the Kabul Attack Network with Dawood, a Taliban commander who served as the Taliban’s shadow governor of Kabul. The Kabul Attack Network executed large numbers of high-profile attacks throughout Kabul and its neighboring provinces, and had received support from al-Qaeda, Lashkar-e-Taiba, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, and the Hizb-i-Islami Gulbuddin in their operations.Bill Roggio, “Haqqani Network’s Taj Mir Jawad subgroup targeted in raid,” Long War Journal, April 29, 2013, https://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2013/04/haqqani_networks_taj.php.
According to media sources, from at least 2013, Jawad was a member of the Taliban’s more radical subset, the Haqqani network, where he eventually became a senior commander in the militant group. As a top Taliban official, Jawad also served as a senior propagandist who closely worked with Zabiullah Mujahid, the spokesman for the Taliban.Bill Roggio, “Haqqani Network’s Taj Mir Jawad subgroup targeted in raid,” Long War Journal, April 29, 2013, https://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2013/04/haqqani_networks_taj.php. Given his role in the Taliban, Jawad was targeted and captured in a raid led by U.S. coalition and Afghan special operations forces on April 28, 2013 in Paktia province.Bill Roggio, “Haqqani Network’s Taj Mir Jawad subgroup targeted in raid,” Long War Journal, April 29, 2013, https://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2013/04/haqqani_networks_taj.php.
It is uncertain when Jawad was released from detainment. However, according to Rahmatullah Nabil—the former head of Afghanistan’s spy agency, the National Directorate of Security (NDS)—Jawad allegedly supervised the Al-Hamza Martyrdom Brigade, an offshoot of the Taliban that received direction, funding, and weapons from the Haqqani network. Jawad reportedly began supervising the brigade’s training of suicide bombers in 2018.Rezaul H. Laskar, “Taliban’s new deputy intelligence chief ran suicide attack network,” Hindustan Times, September 8, 2021, https://www.hindustantimes.com/world-news/talibans-new-deputy-intelligence-chief-ran-suicide-attack-network-101631071578843.html; “Video shows capture of top Taliban leader behind deadly Kabul attacks,” Khaama Press, April 26, 2018, https://www.khaama.com/video-shows-capture-of-top-taliban-leader-behind-deadly-kabul-attacks-04987/. According to media sources, Jawad ran the training camp until August 2021.Abubakar Siddique and Abdul Hai Kakar, “Al-Qaeda Could Flourish With New Strategy Under Taliban Rule,” Gandhara, September 30, 2021, https://gandhara.rferl.org/a/afghanistan-al-qaeda-taliban/31486256.html. In 2018, Jawad, who was largely based in Peshawar, Pakistan at the time, also reportedly planned the killing of General Abdul Raziq, one of Afghanistan’s most powerful security officials who managed to oust the Taliban from their hold on Kandahar province.“Top Afghan General Abdul Raziq killed in Kandahar attack,” Al Jazeera, October 18, 2018, https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2018/10/18/top-afghan-general-abdul-raziq-killed-in-kandahar-attack; Rezaul H. Laskar, “Taliban's new deputy intel chief ran suicide attack network,” Hindustan Times, September 9, 2021, https://www.hindustantimes.com/world-news/talibans-new-deputy-intel-chief-ran-suicide-attack-network-101631151576526.html.
Despite Jawad’s training of militants and coordination of attacks throughout Afghanistan, in February 2019, the Taliban agreed to begin peace negotiations with the U.S. government to reduce ongoing violence and end to the Afghan war. The two parties eventually signed a peace agreement on February 29, 2020, in Doha, Qatar.Kathy Gannon, “Mullah’s rise charts Taliban’s long road back to power,” Associated Press, August 18, 2021, https://apnews.com/article/afghanistan-taliban-abdul-ghani-baradar-e80165eb6c65fc7ea8fae50212ba56c8; “Pullout and guarantees dominate talks with US: Taliban spokesman,” Al Jazeera, February 26, 2019, https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/2/26/pullout-and-guarantees-dominate-talks-with-us-taliban-spokesman; Ayaz Gul, “Taliban Expects Peace Deal With US in Next Meeting,” Voice of America, July 31, 2019, https://www.voanews.com/a/south-central-asia_taliban-expects-peace-deal-us-next-meeting/6172955.html. The terms of the Doha agreement stated that the United States would fully withdraw military troops from Afghanistan within the next 14 months. In exchange, the Taliban agreed to renounce al-Qaeda and prevent al-Qaeda and other groups from using Afghanistan as a base for terrorism against the United States. The Taliban also agreed to negotiate a permanent ceasefire with other Afghan militants and the Afghan government.Asad Hashim, “Pakistan warns US of ‘spoilers’ on US-Taliban deal in Afghanistan,” Al Jazeera, March 1, 2020, https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/03/pakistan-warns-spoilers-taliban-deal-afghanistan-200302093650382.html; Matthew Lee and Kathy Gannon, “US and Taliban sign deal aimed at ending war in Afghanistan,” Associated Press, February 29, 2020, https://apnews.com/491544713df4879f399d0ff5523d369e; Susannah George and Dan Lamothe, “Afghan government objects to elements of U.S.-Taliban peace deal,” Washington Post, March 1, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/asia_pacific/afghan-government-questions-aspects-of-us-taliban-peace-deal/2020/03/01/0a973228-5a68-11ea-8efd-0f904bdd8057_story.html.
The Taliban began its offensive against major Afghan cities on August 6, 2021.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/. On August 15, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani fled Afghanistan and thousands of Afghans poured into Kabul’s airport as Taliban fighters entered the city. By August 16, the Taliban laid siege to the presidential palace and took complete control of Kabul, declaring the war in Afghanistan had ended.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. The last U.S. troops flew out of Kabul on August 30, 2021, ending a 20-year war that took the lives of 2,500 American troops and 240,000 Afghans and cost about $2 trillion.Peter Baker, “All in or All Out? Biden Saw No Middle Ground in Afghanistan.,” New York Times, September 1, 2021, https://www.nytimes.com/2021/08/28/us/politics/trump-taliban-biden-afghanistan.html; Nancy A. Youssef and Gordon Lubold, “Last U.S. Troops Leave Afghanistan After Nearly 20 Years,” Wall Street Journal, August 30, 2021, https://www.wsj.com/articles/last-u-s-troops-leave-afghanistan-after-nearly-20-years-11630355853. The Taliban has claimed that it would take on a more “moderate” approach in their ruling of the country, and that women are allowed to have roles in public life in observance of “Islamic law.”“Factbox: Taliban seek to present a moderate face as they take control in Afghanistan,” Reuters, August 15, 2021, https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/taliban-seek-present-moderate-face-they-take-control-afghanistan-2021-08-15/.
On September 7, 2021, the Taliban announced the official appointments within their caretaker government. Jawad was named deputy to the intelligence chief, Abdul-Haq Wassiq.“Taliban forms 33-member cabinet in Afghanistan: Full list,” Hindustan Times, September 8, 2021, https://www.hindustantimes.com/world-news/taliban-forms-33-member-cabinet-in-afghanistan-full-list-101631066722518.html. 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.