Profile: Mullah Shirin, key figure in Taliban leadership

Mullah Ali Hanafi, widely known as Mullah Shirin, is a prominent figure within the Taliban, having been a close aide to its founder, Mullah Mohammad Omar, and currently to the group’s leader, Mullah Hibatullah Akhundzada.

From the Zherai district in southern Kandahar, Mullah Shirin was appointed as Kandahar’s governor in May 2023, a critical position given Kandahar’s status as a Taliban stronghold and the base for their leader.

Mullah Shirin played a significant role in the Taliban’s negotiations with the United States in Doha. He later became the governor of Kabul and deputy head of intelligence in the Taliban’s defense ministry. In his speech on Aug. 19, 2022, he emphasized the importance of maintaining strength in Kandahar to uphold Taliban control over Afghanistan.

His earlier roles include serving as Kandahar’s governor from 1996 to 2001 under Mullah Omar and as the Taliban’s designated governor for Kandahar during Ashraf Ghani’s government. Following the death of Dawood Muzamil, former Taliban governor in Balkh, Mullah Shirin was directed by Mullah Haibatullah to reinforce security in Kandahar.

In December 2023, Mullah Shirin reportedly deployed undercover armed forces across Kandahar’s security districts to protect the Taliban leader’s base.

Sayed Akbar Agha, a former Taliban commander, remarked, “Kandahar’s significance as the center for issuing decrees and orders is why Mullah Haibatullah has kept Mullah Shirin in Kandahar.”

Amid increasing Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) attacks in Pakistan, Islamabad has called for conditional global interaction with the Taliban, focusing on combating terrorism.

Mullah Shirin has been sent to Islamabad by Mullah Haibatullah to address these concerns. Pakistani Interior Minister Jalil Abbas Jilani met with Mullah Shirin, reaffirming Pakistan’s commitment to ongoing engagement with Afghanistan.

The Foreign Ministry of Pakistan indicated that both sides agreed to continue high-level dialogue to strengthen bilateral relations. However, as a personal envoy of the Taliban leader, questions remain about Mullah Shirin’s ability to resolve the TTP conflict and its implications for the Taliban’s relationship with Pakistan.