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Abdul Ghani Baradar made a triumphant return to Kandahar on Tuesday, as a delegation of top Taliban officials arrived to take power in Afghanistan.
Pictures shared on Taliban social media accounts showed crowds waving the insurgent group's white flag as they waited for Mr Baradar in the country’s second-biggest city, with fireworks being lit to celebrate his return.
One of the most senior members of the Afghan Taliban, Mr Baradar is being tipped as the likely co-leader of the next government, alongside former interior minister Ali Ahmad Jalali.
A veteran military commander, Mr Baradar helped found the Taliban and was one of its late leader Mullah Omar's most trusted commanders.
According to Washington, he was the Taliban's number two and ran the group's insurgency in Afghanistan until he was captured in 2010 by security forces in the southern Pakistani city of Karachi.
Born in Uruzgan province in 1968, Mr Baradar fought alongside Mullah Omar against the Soviets. He is not known to speak English and does not speak to the media outside of official statements.
After the Russians were driven out in 1989 and the country fell into a civil war fought by rival warlords, Mr Baradar set up a madrassa in Kandahar with Mullah Omar.
It was there that the two men, along with a handful of others, established the Taliban movement.
Mr Baradar remained at the centre of the movement from its earliest days in the mid-1990s.
He was believed to be the architect of the movement's victories when they swept and took over the country in 1996.
He was described as the operational leader of the organisation, heading its leadership council and taking day-to-day control with occasional instruction from the elusive Mullah Omar, who was the movement's spiritual figurehead.
Mr Baradar was thought to be the deputy minister of defence at the time the Taliban were ousted by the US and its Afghan allies in 2001.
He was placed under UN Security Council sanctions, which included the freezing of his assets, a travel ban and an arms embargo.
Mr Baradar's release in late 2018 came after US special envoy to Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, reportedly held his first meeting with the Taliban in Doha.
It is believed that Mr Baradar, along with a small group of insurgents, approached former interim Afghan leader Hamid Karzai in 2001 with a letter outlining a potential deal that would have involved the militants recognising the new administration.
He headed the political office of the Taliban and was part of a negotiating team in Qatar that attempted to create a political deal to pave the way for a ceasefire and peace in the country.
Mr Baradar oversaw the signing of the agreement with Washington that paved the way for the withdrawal of US and coalition troops from Afghanistan.
Representatives of the Afghan government and Taliban insurgents met on and off for months in the Qatari capital, but the talks lost momentum as the insurgents made battlefield gains.