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Indian Military Academy trained Afghan soldier, figures among top Taliban leaders

Sher Mohd Abbas Stanikzai, current head of Taliban's political office in Doha Qatar

After the swift victory of Taliban, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar is likely to be the new President of Afghanistan while his deputy in the Doha office, Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai, is expected to be a key player in the new government. 

Stanikzai, who was a deputy foreign minister in the last Taliban regime, is in contrast to his peers, considered to be highly educated as he has passed out of the Indian Military Academy at Dehradun. He was trained at the officers’ academy in the 1970s, under the Indo-Afghan defence cooperation programme. Most of the other Taliban leaders have in contrast studied from madrasas in Afghanistan or Pakistan.

Born in 1963 in the Baraki Barak district of Logar province, Afghanistan, Stanikzai is ethnically a Pashtun.   

In the 1980s, he left the Afghan army and joined “Jihad” against the Soviet army, fighting with Nabi Mohammadi’s Harakat-e Inqilab-e Islami and Abd ul Rasul Sayaf’s Ittehad-e-Islami, as commander of its south-western front. Harakat is the mujahidin faction considered closest to the Taliban both in terms of worldview and personnel and included Mullah Omar in its ranks. When the Taliban came to power in 1996, Stanakzai served as deputy minister of foreign affairs and later deputy minister of Public Health of the insurgent regime.

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According to analyst Kate Clark, the English speaking “soldier” was the face of the Taliban for the west. But he was never trusted by his boss, the then foreign minister Wakil Ahmad Muttawakil Abdul Ghaffar who later defected from the Taliban, when the US started attacks on Afghanistan in pursuit of Osama Bin Laden. 

Daughter studying in the US:  After the overthrow of the Taliban regime in 2001, First he went to Pakistan like all Taliban leaders and then to Qatar. The government of Qatar has agreed to financially support the Ex-Taliban leader and his family. Two years back, the former Tolo news reporter shared a picture of Abbas Stanikzai’s daughter who was studying in the US. In 2015, he took charge at the Taliban’s political office in Doha.

“#Taliban's hypocrisy. Abbas Stanikzai's daughter is studying abroad while they don't let girls go to school in Afghanistan”

Stanakzai is also remembered as an official deemed ‘presentable’ enough by Kandahar to be often assigned to entertain foreign visitors and occasionally give media interviews in English when Taliban founder Mullah Omar ruled Afghanistan.

Stanikzai as aTaliban envoy went to meet US President Bill Clinton in 1996, to ask the Clinton administration to extend diplomatic recognition to Taliban ruled Afghanistan. It was the time when Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab emirates (UAE) recognised the regime.

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Though Stanekzai and others were under international travel bans because of their UN designations, arrangements were reportedly made to allow them to travel to Qatar.

According to Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid, Stanekzai has represented the Taliban in “a number of rounds of peace talks with the US and Afghan government.”

In 2016, he went to Beijing and met the Chinese leadership, establishing direct contact between the Taliban and China. After the US-Taliban agreement he had been travelling to Moscow, Uzbekistan, China and other places. The buzz is that Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai  could be the Taliban’s foreign minister again.