Hekmatyar: Afghanistan’s ultra-ironic peacemaker

Afghanistan's government signed a peace agreement Sept. 22 with Hezb-e-Islami, the militant group of Islamist warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. Representatives of the movement and Afghan officials signed the accord in a ceremony broadcast on live TV. The deal of course grants impunity to Hekmatyar, who is accused of countless atrocities. Hekmatyar was not present at the signing, which is intended to pave the way for him to return from hiding to Kabul. He must still personally sign the accord with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani for it to come into force. Mohammad Amin Karim, head of the insurgent delegation, was present at the ceremony. He said: "This is not just a peace deal between Hezb-e-Islami and the government of Afghanistan, it is a beginning of a new era of peace all around the country." Another Hezb-e-Islami leader, Qarib-ur-Rehman Syed, assured the US State Department's Voice of America Afghanistan service: "Hezb-e-Islami considers itself a…party of the people… we apologize from those who were hurt."  (Khaama PressBBC News, Sept. 22)

Nice use of the passive voice to obfuscate the question of who was actually doing the "hurting." But Washington is likely to be assuaged—because it wants to be. It's been quite a journey for Hekmatyar. He's gone from being a CIA-approved Mujahedeen commander in the 1980s to a rebel warlord who helped plunge Afghanistan back into civil war after the fall of the Russian-backed regime, raining missiles down on Kabul, to a Taliban ally and officially designated "global terrorist" after the post-9-11 invasion, pledging the defeat of the US. Despite his anti-imperialist rhetoric, his campaign of suicide bombings of course overwhelmingly targeted the Afghan civilian population. Now he will never see justice for these crimes, and the US is likely to once again embrace him and consign his atrocities to the Memory Hole in the interests of an utterly oppressive "stability" in Afghanistan.

This smells like the warlord amnesty of 2007—and the warlords are still in control in Afghanistan, even if now they call themselves politicians. It is probably a step toward a "peace-for-sharia" deal with the Taliban—a betrayal of Afghanistan's women which will be welcomed by the supposed "anti-war" people in the West, as well as by the Washington government that they love to hate….