Ismail Khan was an officer in the Afghanistan army when the Soviets arrived in 1979. He fought against them for 10 years, becoming a Mujahedin commander. Later he became governor of Herat. In 1995 the Taliban captured Herat and he was forced to flee. In 1997, while organising opposition to the Taliban, he was handed over to the Taliban by old adversaries.
In March 2000 he escaped and has since then been a low-profile member of the Northern Alliance.