In a rare interview conducted by e-mail, Afghan warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar – head of the weakest of three main insurgent groups and the first
Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, a veteran Afghan warlord, heads the only one of three main insurgent groups that is holding direct negotiations with the government. His group, Hizb-e-Islami, controls large swaths of the north and east, and in March it delivered to Kabul a 15-point peace proposal. But any deal with Hizb-e-Islami remains far off, due to disagreements over when foreign troops should leave and when to hold new elections. And it is not clear that stronger groups such as the Taliban would follow suit.
Mr. Hekmatyar, who is believed to be hiding in Pakistan, discussed the peace negotiations with the Monitor in a rare e-mail interview, with high-ranking associates of his verifying his identity. Here are excerpts from the interview.
In March, a delegation of yours visited Kabul to explore peace negotiations. Why did your group decide to start talks now?
We started our efforts for peace just after [US President] Obama and other Western leaders mentioned for the first time the possibility of withdrawing their forces from Afghanistan. They said that the chaos of Afghanistan does not have a military resolution, that they could not defeat the opposition by fighting.
We [presented our proposal now] because after the withdrawal of these troops, we don’t want a repeat of what happened after the withdrawal of the Russians [i.e., civil war]. We wanted all Afghan sides to agree to stop fighting forever.
Is the withdrawal of the foreign troops the only way to stop the fighting?
The presence of foreign troops is the fundamental reason for the continued fighting. Foreign troops should leave Afghanistan. Moreover, the interference of neighboring countries and other powerful forces should stop, because their competition is the cause of this chaos.
What role do you see for yourself in a post-US government?
Right now I just want the freedom of my country. I am not thinking about other issues. I don’t want anything for myself, nor have we asked for anything for me or Hizb-e-Islami.
We want that Afghans choose the position of each party and person. And they should not ask the foreigners to insure their desired positions.
If your group stops fighting, what effect will this have on the Taliban?
If Hizb-e-Islami agrees on a proposal for ending the chaos, most of the fighters from the resistance will also agree [to stop]. Most of the nation will support it.
If the United States withdraws, how can you ensure that Al Qaeda will no longer use Afghanistan as a haven?
Right now, Al Qaeda does not have an active or widespread presence in Afghanistan. Iraq and Somalia are more preferred and ideal centers for Al Qaeda.
In our proposal, we said that after the foreign troops leave, there will be no foreign fighters in Afghanistan. Afghans are ready to guarantee this.
Recent reports say Hizb-e-Islami and the Taliban have been fighting in the north.
For the past year, some suspected Taliban groups, following the orders of foreign agents who made the Taliban and Hizb fight each other in the past, decided to fight Hizb. In some places, small fighting took place. But we don’t want to drown in fighting with an Afghan group.
Hard times develop some people’s ability to tolerate problems. Or it brings some people to hopelessness. Thanks to God, I am in the first category. I didn’t feel any weakness or hopelessness in my 42 years of fighting. Never.
Here’s what Wikipedia has to say about Gulbuddin Hekmatyar
Gulbuddin Hekmatyar (Pashto: ګلبدین حکمتیار) (born 1947) is an Afghan Mujahideen leader who is the founder and leader of the Hezb-e Islami political party and paramilitary group. Hekmatyar was a rebel military commander during the 1980s Soviet war in Afghanistan and was one of the key figures in the civil war that followed the Soviet withdrawal. He was Prime Minister of Afghanistan from 1993 to 1994 and again briefly in 1996. One of the most controversial of the Mujahideen leaders, he has been accused of spending “more time fighting other Mujahideen than killing Soviets” and wantonly killing civilians.
He is currently wanted by the United States for participating in terrorist actions with Al Qaeda and the Taliban, and on 19 February 2003, the United States Department of State designated him as a “Specially Designated Global Terrorist”.
There is also a quite recent profile of Hekmatyar on BBC:
Former mujahideen leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar is one of the most controversial figures in modern Afghan history.
A former prime minister, he is remembered chiefly for his role in the bloody civil war of the 1990s.
Mr Hekmatyar is currently in a tenuous alliance with the Taliban, although both sides remain suspicious of each other.
In 2003, the US state department designated him as a terrorist, accusing him of taking part in and supporting attacks by al-Qaeda and the Taliban.
Observers say his current willingness to hold talks with the Afghan authorities is significant as it may now put pressure on the Taliban to also start reaching out to the government.
Afghanistan Online has this to say about Gulbuddin Hekmatyar:
Hekmatyar has been accused by almost every other political party of being a puppet of Pakistan and the United States. The truth is that while he has received numerous aid from the Pakistanis and the Americans, he was always working for himself. He used the Pakistanis and the Americans as they used him. It is also true that he had close connections with the ISI of Pakistan, and that he was extensively trained by them. Pakistani officials at that time described Hekmatyar as being a power hungry, cunning, and a ruthless fanatic who would do anything to be on top. Many of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar’s detractors believe that Hekmatyar wants Afghanistan to be governed according to his parties ideology, and he will not let anyone or anthing stand in his way. Even though Hekmatyar’s Hezbi Islami recieved millions of dollars worth of military and financial aid from the United States, they still failed to liberate Afghanistan from the Communists. In fact, many Afghan political analysts accuse Hekmatyar of killing more Mujahideen members than Communists.
Well, if Tony Hayward chooses to leave BP as has been rumoured by Russian sources, Gulbuddin could step in here. He seems to be ideally suited for a top executive position in the economy.