Afghan Biographies

Tayyab, Syed Agha Popolzai Tayyeb Tayeb


Name Tayyab, Syed Agha Popolzai Tayyeb Tayeb
Ethnic backgr. Pashtun
Date of birth 1976
Function/Grade Former secretary and spokesman Mullah Omar,
History and Biodata

2. Previous Functions:
Former personal secretary and spokesman Mullah Omar
Government Official during Taliban Regime in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs

3. Biodata:
agha_tayyabMullah Mohammad Syed Tayyab Agha Popolzai Tayyeb Agha was born 1976 in Jelahor (a.k.a. Jelawur) village of Kandahar’s Arghandab district sometime around 1976, to a prominent religious family from the Naser tribe. His father, Mawlawi Sadozai Sahib, was one of Kandahar’s leading ulema, with a large religious following and a network of madrassas, who at one point even provided instruction to a young Mulla Omar. Tayeb received his primary education in Quetta, the capital of Pakistan’s southwestern Balochistan province, before joining a seminary.

A second version of his background: Tayyeb Agha is a young educated son of Mawlawi Abdullah Zakeri, chairman of the Afghan Ulema Council in Peshawer established pre-Taleban who visited Kabul during the 1990s, advised the mujahedin leadership and Rabbani and later the Taleban and that he is from the Tsinzai, a subtribe of the Hotak. It is not the first case that there are different versions, not least to exactly achieve this: to blur the background and make access more difficult.

During the nineties and the current insurgency, Sadozai held a leading position of the Taleban’s ulema shura, providing edicts and rulings on Taliban affairs. Agha’s maternal grandfather was Mawlawi Abdul Qayum, another of Kandahar’s leading religious authorities.

But the family’s biggest claim to fame was Agha’s older brother, Lala Malang. In the mid-eighties, Lala Malang was the preeminent mujahideen commander in Kandahar, the Soviet’s biggest foe. Malang had studied at the Nur-ul Madaris under Nasrullah Mansur in Ghazni, one of the early incubators of Taliban-type movements. He led a large ‘taliban front,’ or mujaheddin group consisting entirely of religious students, in the Arghandab and Panjwayi areas, quickly earning renown as one of the most effective and popular commanders.

agha_tayebTayyeb Agha had been too young to fight during most of the jihad. Towards the end of the eighties he moved to Quetta for studies, where he learned English and Arabic. His language abilities and his family history allowed him to rapidly climb the ranks of the nascent Taliban movement. As so few Talib's could speak a foreign language other than Urdu, Agha was enlisted into service as Mullah Omar’s press secretary and translator, which was useful particularly in meetings with Arabs. He also worked as a translator in various ministries in Kabul. Eventually, he grew to become Mullah Omar’s personal secretary.

During US invasion and bombing campaign, Agha was one of the few Taliban leaders who maintained contact with Mullah Omar as he fled like a fugitive through the outskirts of Kandahar city. It was during these tense days that the two grew very close and Omar began to trust Agha with his life.

Besides working as a Mullah Omar's chief of staff, Tayyab Agha has served in several other positions in the Taliban administration. According to Afghan journalist Sami Yusufzai, he was an official in the foreign ministry and at the Taliban's embassy in Islamabad.

The former Taliban’s top spokesman in November 2001 vowed that the Taliban would not be defeated. They had made a “strategic retreat” from the north, he said, in order to gather forces to defend their remaining territory—the southern Pashtun provinces of Helmand, Ghazi, Kandahar, Uruzgan and Zabul—and they would defend their heartland to the death. He said the Taliban had no regrets for inviting Osama bin Laden into the country—”he shed blood in our struggle” against the Soviet Union—but insisted that the Al Qaeda leader was “probably not” in areas now under Taliban control. To prove that the city of Kandahar was still firmly under Taliban rule, Tayyab Agha promised that the leaders would soon organize an escorted trip into the city.

Later Agha engaged in fundraising activities of the insurgency, traveling frequently to Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states. At the same time, he has been centrally involved in political tasks, including frequent travel (such as to Mecca in 2008) for talks about talks. He has clearly articulated the Taliban’s position on talks - they should be directly with the U.S.

Tayeb Popalzai (a.k.a. Mullah Tayyab Agha), said to be close aide of Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar, was arrested in Karachi 20100227. Although he is President Hamid Karzai's own tribesmen [Popalzai] he supported the Taliban. He now seems to be a propaganda tool from the US or Pakistan in the ongoing infowar to weaken the Taliban and to have some influence on the lower Taliban ranks.

Tayyab Agha is a man said to be the direct representative of Taliban leader Mullah Omar in a report by German newsmagazine "Der Spiegel" that describes recent negotiations in Germany between Agha and U.S. diplomats. So far the Taliban leadership has made no statements about Agha's role or his mandate as a negotiator. And this, along with the fact that Mullah Omar himself remains a fugitive, raises questions about his credibility as a representative. Asked about Agha's role in the current Afghan Taliban organization thought to be based in Quetta, Pakistan, Afghan journalist Sami Yusufzai says: "I don't think that he has any major role in the Quetta Shura Taliban. His name does not come up when people talk about the mainstream Taliban council, but he does seem to have some role in the Taliban's political wing, which they established recently." Afghan analyst Waheed Muzhdah says that even if the man is the real Tayyab Agha, his credibility as a negotiator will be undermined by the Taliban's refusal to publicly acknowledge his role. So far, says Muzdah, the Taliban refuses to endorse such talks.(20110500)

The unanswered question is how much of the Quetta Shura leadership Tayyab Agha can deliver to a negotiating table. Still being in contact with Mullah Omar is not the same as speaking for him. "It's still not clear that this is the route," a European official said.(20110620). The family of Tayyab Agha is still living in Pakistan and may be a "hostage" to prevent Tayyab Agha to act against Pakistan's plans for future Afghanistan.(20110720)

Tayyab Agha mediating with the Americans has reportedly gone missing, frustrating US attempts to hold another round of talks to settle the negotiating parameters for the decade-old conflict in Afghanistan, officials have said.(20110808) An Afghan leader familiar with the negotiation process said that the US has made frantic efforts to contact Agha for further talks, but there has been no success so far. "Agha has not yet been traced and is believed to have gone either to Qatar or the United Arab Emirates," he added. The same source said that Agha was annoyed at the disclosure of the secret talks to the media by Karzai and Gates, as the negotiators reportedly want to keep the matter secret.

Taliban Spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said the person named Tayeb Agha, who held talks with American delegation, made fool of the United States as the person who fooled NATO in the names of Taliban leader earlier.(20110822)

Ataullah Lodin (High Peace Council Vice Chairman) said, that some former Taliban leaders including Abbas Stanikzai, Shahabuddin Delawari and Sayed Taib Agha have gone from Kabul to Qatar with their families.(20120102). The government of Qatar has agreed to financially support the Ex-Taliban leaders and their families.

Akbar Agha is a cousin of Taliban top negotiator Tayyab Agha and veteran commander. He sometimes gives statements to the media concerning the Taliban-U.S. talks in Doha, Qatar. (20120425)

The Taliban are contemplating removing Tayyab Aga — special assistant to Omar during the Taliban's rule — as their lead negotiator because he could not achieve the expected results. Mullah Abbas Akhund, the Taliban's former health minister, is being tapped as Aga's replacement. The root of this rumor is the Karzai Administration.  (20130318)

A delegation which consisted of members of Taliban’s political mission in Qatar and was headed by Tayyeb Aqa held talks with the security officials of the Islamic Republic of Iran in Tehran, bypassing the Karzai Government. (20130601) The other members of the delegation were Maulvi Shahab-ud-Din Dilawar, Sher Muhammad Abbas Stanakzai and Qari Din Muhammad. (20130607)

Tayyab Agha is fluent in English, Arabic, Dari, Pashtu, Urdu and comfortable on a computer.

Last Modified 2013-06-29
Established 2011-05-28