Afghanistan: Peace talks with the Taliban's Gulbuddin Hekmatyar
Gulbuddin Hekmatyar heads the smallest of the three main Taliban nsurgent groups. He is holding tentative peace talks with the government of Afghanistan
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"He (Hekmatyar) is ready for reconciliation," said Khalid Farooqi, a senior member of parliament for Hezb-i-Islami. "There are talks between him and the government, but I don't know the result."Skip to next paragraph
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Hekmatyar is on a United Nations blacklist of terrorists, and that would make negotiations with him difficult. According to the U.S. State Department, he had links with Osama bin Laden and gave the al Qaida leader shelter in Afghanistan in the mid-1990s.
"The government must talk to Hekmatyar and the Taliban at the same time," said Bakhtar Aminzay, a senator and the president of the Afghanistan National Peace Jirga, a non-government group that promotes political reconciliation. "If you make a deal with Hekmatyar and not the Taliban, the problem could get worse."
Backed by Pakistan's ISI
Gulbuddin Hekmatyar was one of the main "mujahedeen" commanders in the U.S.-backed resistance to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in the 1980s.
With the support of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence spy agency, he then threw his group into the Afghan civil war that followed in the early 1990s, briefly becoming prime minister.
Hekmatyar ordered the shelling of Kabul during that period, killing thousands of civilians. He was ousted when the Taliban came to power and fled to exile in Iran in 1997, and later to Pakistan.
More recently, his group re-emerged as an armed faction inside Afghanistan, with a significant presence in the northeast. They claimed responsibility for a 2008 assassination attempt against Karzai.
Many think that he never had much support in Afghanistan and was propped up for decades by Pakistan's ISI. Some say he'd have to live in exile under any settlement.
"Even Hekmatyar's party (inside parliament) will not welcome his return to politics. He is in real trouble. He is losing his influence over Hezb-i-Islami," said Haroun Mir, deputy director of Afghanistan's Center for Research and Policy Studies, an independent research organization in Kabul. "He's desperate, worried that he'll be left out of any negotiations."
Hekmatyar's Pakistani benefactors, who are keen to play a major role in deciding the fate of Afghanistan, may be pushing him into talks.
"He (Hekmatyar) has a weak hand to play and it may be made even weaker if the Pakistanis are putting pressure on him and his people at his base in Shamshatoo (Afghan refugee camp), near Peshawar," said a U.S. official in Washington, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue. "Perhaps they're offering him up as evidence of their ability to deliver on the insurgents."
(Shah is a McClatchy special correspondent. McClatchy special correspondent Nooruddin Bakhshi contributed to this article. Jonathan S. Landay contributed from Washington.)
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