The leader of Hezb-i-Islami Gulbuddin (HIG), a faction that fuels Afghanistan’s insurgency, has withdrawn from peace talks after raising the hopes of the Afghan government that an agreement was near. Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, HIG’s leader, has toyed with the Afghan government in the past.
Hekmatyar terminated peace talks on June 27 after claiming that Afghanistan’s national unity government was not supported by the people. He demanded that the Afghan government disband.
Hekmatyar announced the end of negotiations yesterday in an article that appeared on Peshawar Daily Shahadat, an official HIG mouthpiece.
Afghan officials felt that a deal with Hekmatyar and his HIG faction was imminent. But evidence of Hekmatyar’s betrayal surfaced last week, when he issued new demands for a peace agreement that could not possibly be met by the Afghan government. On June 21, Hekmatyar wrote a letter to Afghan President Arshaf Ghani that said that the government must end all agreements with the US and order the withdrawal of US and other foreign troops from Afghanistan.
His demands match those of the Taliban, which refuses to conduct peace talks with the Afghan government.
Hekmatyar’s cessation of peace talks with the Afghan government should come as no surprise, as he withdrew from peace negotiations in 2010 under similar circumstances. In March 2010, as US forces were surging in Afghanistan and the Taliban was under military pressure to negotiate, Hekmatyar and the Afghan government entered talks and there was hope that HIG would cease its fighting. However, he issued a 15-point peace plan that included the full withdrawal of foreign troops and the disbandment of the Afghanistan government. He had also offered the Afghan government similar terms for peace in December 2009.
Hekmatyar is a notorious opportunist who has ties with al Qaeda, Iran, and Pakistan’s military and intelligence establishment.
A key player in the Soviet-Afghan war, Hekmatyar led one of the biggest insurgent factions against both 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. He reentered the fighting in Afghanistan after US forces invaded in late 2001.
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.
After the Taliban, Hekmatyar leads one of the largest insurgent factions in Afghanistan. HIG has close ties to al Qaeda and other jihadist groups based in Pakistan and Central Asia. In May 2006, Hekmatyar expressed his support for al Qaeda and its emir, 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.”
Late last year, rumors surfaced that Hekmatyar joined the Islamic State, however he quickly responded that was not the case.
“Hezb-i-Islami neither has relations with the Islamic State, or any commitment to the group,” Hekmatyar told Peshawar Daily Shahadat in October 2015.