The leader of one of the top three factions fueling the Afghan insurgency has sent a delegation to Kabul to conduct peace negotiations with President Hamid Karzai’s government.
Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, the leader of a splinter faction of the Hezb-i-Islami, sent a five-man delegation “to discuss Hezb-i-Islami’s agenda on how to bring durable peace to Afghanistan,” Haroon Zarghoon, a spokesman for the group told The Wall Street Journal.
Hekmatyar sent Qutbuddin Helal, a former Afghan prime minister and the deputy leader of Hezb-i-Islami Gulbuddin, to conduct the talks and present the 15-point proposal for peace.
The 15-point proposal was first released on Feb. 21; the text was printed by the Frontier Post [see below for the full text]. The plan calls for a full withdrawal of NATO and allied troops by the end of 2010, a withdrawal of those forces from cities to remote bases in the interim, and a full turnover of security to the Afghan Army and police. “Foreign troops will have no rights to carry out military operations, house search and arrests on their own anywhere in Afghanistan,” the statement read.
Al Qaeda and other foreign jihadist groups would not be required to leave Afghanistan until after a full NATO withdrawal. “Foreign fighters will not stay in Afghanistan after the withdrawal of foreign troops.”
The HIG plan calls for the formation of a seven-man security council “with the consensus of all Afghan factions which will have the power to take final decisions on key issues.” Elections would be held in March 2011.
A similar offer was made by Hekmatyar in December 2009 in a statement released for Eid.
Hekmatyar is a notorious opportunist who has ties with al Qaeda, Iran, and Pakistan’s military and intelligence establishment.
Hekmatyar was a key player in the Soviet-Afghan war and led one of the biggest insurgent factions against Soviet and Afghan communist forces. But Hekmatyar’s brutal battlefield tactics and wanton destruction of Kabul following the collapse of the Afghan Communist regime in the early 1990s led to the demise of his popularity. The Taliban overran his last stronghold south of Kabul in 1995 and forced him into exile in Iran from 1996-2002.
HIG forces have conducted attacks in northern and northeastern Afghanistan, and have bases in Pakistan’s Swat Valley as well as in the tribal agencies of Bajaur, Mohmand, and North and South Waziristan.
Hekmatyar’s forces, along with the Haqqani Network and the Quetta Shura, are the top three insurgent groups in Afghanistan. All have close ties to al Qaeda and other jihadist groups based in Pakistan and Central Asia.
In May 2006, Hekmatyar swore alliance to al Qaeda’s top leader, Osama bin Laden. “We thank all Arab mujahideen, particularly Sheikh Osama Bin Laden, Dr. Ayman al Zawahiri, and other leaders who helped us in our jihad against the Russians,” he said in a recording broadcast by Al Jazeera.
“They fought our enemies and made dear sacrifices,” Hekmatyar continued. “Neither we nor the future generations will forget this great favor. We beseech Almighty God to grant us success and help us fulfill our duty toward them and enable us to return their favor and reciprocate their support and sacrifices. We hope to take part with them in a battle which they will lead and raise its banner. We stand beside and support them.”
Despite Hekmatyar’s pledge to al Qaeda, senior US generals believe that he can be weaned from the insurgency and brought into the Afghan government. Major General Michael Flynn, the top intelligence official in Afghanistan, called both Hekmatyar and Jalaluddin “Haqqani “absolutely salvageable” even if they currently support al Qaeda.
“The HIG already have members in Karzai’s government, and it could evolve into a political party, even though Hekmatyar may be providing al Qaeda leaders refuge in Kunar,” Flynn told The Atlantic. “Hekmatyar has reconcilable ambitions.”
Sir Graeme Lamb, a senior adviser to General McChrystal, echoed Flynn’s view on Hekmatyar and Haqqani, and discounted the groups’ close ties to al Qaeda.
“Haqqani and Hekmatyar are pragmatists tied to the probability of outcomes,” Lamb also told The Atlantic. “With all the talk of Islamic ideology, this is the land of the deal.”
Full text of the Afghan peace proposal made by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar
1): Foreign troops must start withdrawal in July this year and complete the process in six months.
2): They should quit main cities and populated area and move to military bases.
3): Security issues must be completely handed over to Afghan army and the police. Foreign troops will have no rights to carry out military operations, house search and arrests on their own anywhere in Afghanistan.
4): The parliament and the incumbent government will continue to function unless new elections are held and new government is formed. But those people should not be part of the government who are controversial and accused of corruption, war crimes and who have secular ideas. And those people should not be in top military leadership who support a group against other.
5: A 7-member National Security Council will be formed with the consensus of all Afghan factions which will have the power to take final decisions on key issues. The Council’s center will be in a province where security will be completely under Afghan forces and there will be no foreign troops there.
6: After the withdrawal of foreign troops, elections for the office of the President, National Assembly and provincial assemblies will be held simultaneously on proportional representation basis in (Afghan year 1390 Spring). (March 2011)
7): Cabinet members and governors can only be allowed to take part in the elections who resign three months before the polls.
8): Every party will get representation in the first elected government in accordance with their seats in the parliament and they will secure trust vote from the parliament. And the largest group will not be bound to form coalition government.
9): That Group or Alliance will have the right to take part in coming election which will secure up to 10 per cent votes in the first election.
10): During this period there will be complete ceasefire among the warring factions, all political prisoners will be freed, all sides will make commitment that they will not fight against rival faction and they will not use illegal channels to grab power.
11): The first elected parliament will have the right to review the constitution and to take a final decision about the constitution.
12): No foreign country will have the right to establish their jails in Afghanistan. They will not arrest or put on trial any Afghan national and will not take any Afghan for trial outside of the country.
13): Those accused of war crimes, drug smuggling, corruption and plundering national wealth will be tried in Islamic courts. No side will defend them covertly or overtly.
14): Foreign fighters will not stay in Afghanistan after the withdrawal of foreign troops.
15): Any internal and external elements who are opposed to this agreement and insist on fighting, we all will jointly deal with the war mongers to save our homeland from their curse.