The reclusive supreme leader of the Afghan Taliban hailed the Islamists’ 2021 takeover of Afghanistan during a meeting on Friday called to forge national unity and attended by religious leaders from around the country.
Taliban spokesmen confirmed that Haibatullah Akhundzada, who is based in the southern city of Kandahar, had come to the capital Kabul for the all-male gathering of some 3,000 participants.
After receiving pledges of allegiance from participants raising their hands, Akhundzada praised the Taliban’s victory last August, which marked the end of a 20-year struggle to overthrow a Western-backed government and drive U.S.-led forces out of the country.
“The success of the Afghan jihad is not only a source of pride for Afghans but also for Muslims all over the world,” he said according to the state-run Bakhtar News Agency, using the Arabic word signifying a spiritual struggle.
When the Islamist movement announced its interim government in September, Akhundzada retained the role he has held since 2016 as the supreme leader, the group’s ultimate authority, but he is rarely seen publicly.