Last summer, reports circulated in the Afghan and international media that Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, the mercurial leader of a faction of the Hizb-i-Islami (called Hizb-i-Islami Gulbuddin, or HIG) had thrown its support behind the Islamic State. The reports stemmed from a newsletter purportedly distributed by HIG, entitled “A new strategy of Hizb-i-Islami Afghanistan about some Afghan groups,” which states:
If there is a clash between the Taliban of the Emirate and those who have joined the Islamic State, help these militants, because the Taliban are sworn enemies of Hizb-i-Islami, because those militants have joined the Islamic State who were against the Taliban’s strategies, and because they have fought against the Hizb-i-Islami neither in the past nor now and do not intend to fight [us] in the future.
A week after the statement was distributed, a HIG spokesman denied that his group backed the Islamic State over the Taliban.
“It was not true. None of us had issued any such statement in support of ISIS [Islamic State] in Afghanistan against the Afghan Taliban,” he told Reuters.
Earlier this month, Hekmatyar put the controversy over the state of HIG to bed. On Oct. 15, the Peshawar Daily Shahadat, an official HIG mouthpiece, released an interview with Hekmatyar, who denied “relations” with the Islamic State. Hekmatyar was directly asked if HIG “is supporting” the Islamic State:
Question: The media says that Hizb-i-Islami is supporting Islamic State. Is that true? Is there a unity among your organization and the Islamic State? While Islamic countries strongly oppose the Islamic State, what would your justification be for extending your hand to the Islamic State?
Answer: Hizb-i-Islami neither has relations with the Islamic State, or any commitment to the group, nor has it announced any support of that group. Of course, Hizb-i-Islami has stated that Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State is a natural reaction against aggression and oppression in Palestine, Iraq, Syria and other Islamic countries. That reaction surfaced yesterday in the form of al Qaeda and today as the Islamic State. In case both of them break down, it will resurface in another form.
This is not to say that Hekmatyar may not join the Islamic State in the future. In the past, he has been opportunistic and supported whichever jihadist faction he thinks will succeed.
As an aside, it was obvious that HIG had not joined the Islamic State, as the latter never sought to publicize the relationship or welcome HIG into the Islamic State’s so-called Khorasan province, as it has done with other groups in the past.
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