More than 120 fighters from the anti-government Gulbuddin faction of Hezb-i-Islami have surrendered to local authorities in Baghlan after a weekend of fighting with the Taliban that left 60 insurgents and 20 civilians dead.
“Since Sunday 120 fighters including 70 armed men from Hizb-e-Islami have joined [the] government,” a police spokesman in Baghlan told Xinhua. Mamor Malang, a local commander of the Hezb-i-Islami Gulbuddin, or HIG, was among those who surrendered to the government. More HIG fighters are expected to join the government in the coming days.
The fighting began on Saturday as a dispute between the local HIG units and Taliban forces in several villages in the Baghlan-e-Markazi district came to a head. The two forces, which are normally allied against Afghan and Coalition forces, battled over control of the region and the ability to collect taxes there. Twenty-five fighters were reported killed in the first day of the fighting, which ultimately ended on Sunday.
It is not clear if this split is localized to the district or portends a wider problem in the North; Taliban and HIG leaders have not commented on the fighting.
HIG has allied with the Taliban in the northern Afghan provinces of Baghlan and Kunduz. The allied terror groups maintain safe havens in Baghlan and in neighboring Kunduz province. Of the seven districts in Kunduz province, only two are considered under government control; the rest of the districts – Chahara Dara, Dashti Archi, Ali Abab, Khan Abad, and Iman Sahib – are considered contested or under Taliban control, according to a map produced by Afghanistan’s Interior Ministry in the spring of 2009. Two districts in neighboring Baghlan province – Baghlan-i-Jadid and Burka – are under the control of the Taliban [see LWJ report, “Afghan forces and Taliban clash in Kunduz,” and Threat Matrix report, “Afghanistan’s wild-wild North”].
HIG commanders claim to have thousands of fighters and supporters under arms in northern Afghanistan, and say the group is flush with foreign support and fighters.
“We have around 3,000 to 4,000 Hezb-i-Islami men in the north,” a HIG commander named Kalakub told a PBS Frontline reporter who spent a week with fighters in Baghlan. “People come to us from all over Afghanistan. They come from Chechnya, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan. We get special mujahids from abroad, but we’re not allowed to talk about them.” Quraishi believes that these special mujahids are mainly Arabs from Yemen and Saudi Arabia who have been trained by Al Qaeda.
The northern HIG is led by Commander Mirwais, “a former millionaire businessman who turned to jihad after the US invasion of Afghanistan.”
“Jihad has become a duty for all the Afghan nation because the foreign and non-believer countries have attacked us,” Mirwais told PBS Frontline. “They’re getting rid of our religious and cultural values in Afghanistan. They’ve increased obscenity and want to force Western democracy on our country.”
HIG is a breakaway faction of the Hezb-i-Islami, which has joined the Afghan government. HIG is a radical Islamist group that is loosely aligned with al Qaeda and the Taliban. It is led by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, who is closely tied to Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency.
Hekmatyar was a key player in the Soviet-Afghan war and led one of the biggest insurgent factions against Soviet and Afghan communist forces. His 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 Hekmatyar’s popularity. The Taliban overran his last stronghold south of Kabul in 1995 and forced him into exile in Iran from 1996-2002.
In May 2006, Hekmatyar swore alliance to 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.”
Hekmatyar has since reached out to the Afghan government to conduct negotiations to end the fighting. His son is reported to have attended negotiations in the Maldives earlier this year. Also, last month Hekmatyar released terms for an end to the fighting. The 15-point plan calls for Coalition forces to withdraw from Afghanistan by the end of 2010.
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I hate when this happens. ;^)
A crack in the Taliban, they’re more vulnerable now than ever.
Al Jazeera is now reporting that Hezb-I-Islami fighters are surrendering to authorities: //english.aljazeera.net/news/asia/2010/03/2010399617919335.html
Given how insurgents usually exaggerate their strength pretty substantially, a HIG commander saying he had four thousand guys could really mean a couple hundred.
120 HIG fighters just joined the government and many have recently been killed. Do the math. There might not be a whole lot left of the HIG in Kunduz.
Bill, thanks for the video.
These guys seem almost relieved.
It never ceases to amaze me how beautiful, if harsh, the countryside is throughout the region of the war. As beautiful as the screwed up minds corrupted by so-called religion, instigated by the devious, violent and self-serving Pakistani military machine. This whole area is bound to remain in turmoil until the Pak military is humbled, seriously.
The only coin i know is to pay the Pak army back with the same coin they have now used for decades–brutal force–once and for all. Strike at and pull out the roots of all this violence ultimately and originally sponsored by the state. Pakistanis who truly want to live in a democratic state will be freed from the grip of violence. Only then would one have the conditions required to build an economy and social infrastructure.
Pakistanis need to be educated that the true strategic depth in their future lies in their economy. It is that, and that only, which can put some money in peoples pockets at large; rather than just the top few generals and politicians who will be the first to flee the country (with their booties of US tax-payer money) should they feel the heat.
If to Americans, Pakistan is illogical, to me the US is a puzzle i’m afraid i just don’t get.
If anyone believes that by the recent arrests Pakistan is signalling that it is pulling back from the brink, forget it.
British created Pakistan & its Army to achieve their objectives & US got this asset in heiredity from Brits. As long as there are sponsers avaliable for Pak army, nothing is going to change in the region. To expect people of Pakistan to bring a positive change is out of question, they are too buisy to think above feeding themsleves twice a day. Did’t you hear that LeT is taking over Alqaeeda & is more dangerious than it with international reach. And why not they have all the resources of ISI on its disposal. Your puzzle about US will only be solved when US & Brits do the calculation & as a result they conclude that the world peace & progress is better off minus ISI & Pakistan Army Jihadi infrastructure.
“And why not they have all the resources of ISI on its disposal.”
Exactly! And the ISI has all the resources of the US at its disposal….they get everything they ask for except the combat drones.
And about LeT thanks for the tip–i read this article by Miranda Hussain
Where does she get the courage from to write this stuff, i wonder!? Hats off to her and to those in Pakistan on this side of the fine line of sanity!