He “believed in martyrdom and suicide bombings,” Malkasian wrote.
Mr. Akhundzada, former judge of the military court of the Taliban regime, later issued many of the fatwas or religious orders, suicide bombers blessing. “He is someone who is really a spiritual guide and an ideologue,” said Thomas Joscelyn, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and senior editor of the group’s Long War Journal.
He was chosen as a compromise candidate for the Taliban leadership after his predecessor, Akhtar Mohammad Mansour, who was killed in an American drone strike in 2016.
“They needed someone more consensual, someone more capable of holding the different factions together,” Giustozzi said. “He became a kind of prime minister. It leans more toward the pragmatic end. “
More recently, he overruled the group’s political leaders and gave the military wing the green light to step up attacks on Afghan cities, Giustozzi said, in what turned out to be a winning gamble.
Akhundzada’s deputy, Sirajuddin Haqqani, the son of a legendary Mujahideen figure and head of the Haqqani network in Pakistan and eastern Afghanistan, has led much of the recent military efforts.
Haqqani, 48, known as Khalifa, oversees an expanding network of fighters, religious schools and businesses with strong ties to the Persian Gulf countries from a base in the tribal areas of Pakistan. Known for its close ties to the Pakistani intelligence service, the Haqqani network became the most tenacious opponent of the American presence in Afghanistan, responsible for the hostage-taking of Americans, complex suicide attacks and targeted assassinations.
Haqqani and his network also have some of the strongest and longest-lasting ties to al Qaeda. From their stronghold on the border with Pakistan, they helped Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden escape from his headquarters in Tora Bora after the US invasion in 2001.