Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, one of the co-founders of the Taliban, was freed from jail in Pakistan three years ago at the request of the U.S. government.
Just nine months ago, he posed for pictures with Donald Trump's Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to sign a peace deal in Doha which today lies in tatters.
Last month, his forces seized Kabul and he is now tipped to become Afghanistan's next leader in a reversal of fortune which humiliates Washington.
While Haibatullah Akhundzada is the Taliban's overall leader, Baradar is head of its political office and one of the most recognisable faces of the chiefs who have been involved in peace talks in Qatar.
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In September 2020, Baradar was pictured with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo who 'urged the Taliban to seize this opportunity to forge a political settlement and reach a comprehensive and permanent ceasefire,' the US said in a statement
The 53-year-old was deputy leader under ex-chief Mullah Mohammed Omar, whose support for Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden led to the US-led invasion of Afghanistan after 9/11.
Baradar is reported to have flown immediately from Doha to Kabul on Sunday evening as the militants were storming the presidential palace.
Born in Uruzgan province in 1968, Baradar was raised in Kandahar, the birthplace of the Taliban movement.
He fought with the mujahideen against the Soviets in the 1980s until they were driven out in 1989.
Afterwards, Afghanistan was gripped by a blood civil war between rival warlords and Baradar set up an Islamic school in Kandahar with his former commander Mohammed Omar.
The two mullahs helped to found the Taliban movement, an ideology which embraced hardline orthodoxy and strived for the creation of an Islamic Emirate.
Fuelled by zealotry, hatred of greedy warlords and with financial backing from Pakistan's secret services, the Taliban seized power in 1996 after conquering provincial capitals before marching on Kabul, just as they have in recent months.
Baradar had a number of different roles during the Taliban's five-year reign and was the deputy defence minister when the US invaded in 2001.
He went into hiding but remained active in the Taliban's leadership in exile.Insurance Loans Mortgage Attorney Credit Lawyer
In 2010, the CIA tracked him down to the Pakistani city of Karachi and in February of that year the Pakistani intelligence service (ISI) arrested him.
But in 2018, he was released at the request of the Trump administration as part of their ongoing negotiations with the Taliban in Qatar, on the understanding that he could help broker peace.
In February 2020, Baradar signed the Doha Agreement in which the U.S. pledged to leave Afghanistan on the basis that the Taliban would enter into a power-sharing arrangement with President Ashraf Ghani's government in Kabul.
He was pictured in September with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo who 'urged the Taliban to seize this opportunity to forge a political settlement and reach a comprehensive and permanent ceasefire,' the US said in a statement.
Pompeo 'welcomed Afghan leadership and ownership of the effort to end 40 years of war and ensure that Afghanistan is not a threat to the United States or its allies.'
The Doha deal was heralded as a momentous peace declaration but has been proved to be nothing but a ploy by the Taliban.
The jihadists waited until thousands of American troops had left before launching a major offensive to recapture the country, undoing two decades of work by the US-led coalition.Haibatullah