Afghan Warlord Changes His Conditions for Peace with Kabul
A notorious Afghan warlord who lives in hiding dropped a key condition for ending his war of more than 40 years with Kabul, an associate said Tuesday.
According to Amin Karim, an official of the Hezb-i-Islami Party, the party’s leader, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, is no longer demanding that all foreign troops leave Afghanistan.
Hekmatyar is designated a “global terrorist” by the United States and blacklisted by the United Nations. He is widely believed to live in Pakistan, though his supporters say he is in Afghanistan.
Last year, he briefly came out of the shadows to set his conditions for peace that included the withdrawal of foreign forces.
Karim told The Associated Press that for Hekmatyar, the “departure of foreign troops is not a condition, it is a goal,” and added that the warlord’s followers “have no conditions, we have principles.”
The move by Hekmatyar, whose current following is hard to gauge, is likely as much an overture to the government of Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani as it is an attempt to stay relevant on the Afghan political scene.
Ghani came to power in 2014 promising to end the 15-year war with the Taliban. A diplomatic offensive aimed at getting Pakistan to bring the Taliban into peace talks has so far failed and this year is expected to be as brutal on the battlefield as 2015, when 11,000 civilians were killed or wounded, according to UN figures.
Afghan officials have said that a peace deal with Hekmatyar could be useful in possibly convincing Taliban commanders on the battlefield to join the peace process.
His move Tuesday to drop the condition on foreign forces could raise questions among Taliban leaders and commanders about their own ongoing fight.
“We are convinced that if Hezb-i-Islami achieves and signs a peace agreement with the government, it will open the door for the other groups, including the Taliban,” Karim said. “If we achieve agreement, then there will be no more reason for the Taliban to fight.”