Top Afghan insurgents tout girls' education, not bombs
Hizb-e-Islami, a key militant group, is increasingly supporting many Afghan government priorities, such as girls' education. Such cooperation could boost peace efforts.
When Vygaudas Ušackas became the European Union's ambassador to Afghanistan and traveled there recently, one of Afghanistan's main Islamic insurgent groups – Hizb-e-Islami – sent a welcoming delegation.Skip to next paragraph
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While the move may seem odd for a group known for fighting foreign forces, it is part of what appears to be an increasing effort by Hizb-e-Islami to position itself for a place within the political system. As the Afghan government struggles to make peace with insurgent groups and incorporate them into the system, this is a big deal: The cooperation of Hizb-e-Islami could be a major boost to the lagging peace process.
"[Hizb-e-Islami] is trying to get the support of the people. They realize that the people of Afghanistan are tired of the war and now they want to get involved in political and economic issues," says Rafi Wardak, a member of the provincial council in Wardak Province.
In what looks like an about-face from its battlefield mission, Hizb-e-Islami has also taken a number of positions seemingly in line with many of the Afghan government's objectives. It has publicly and carefully supported women's education, condemned attacks on reconstruction projects, and ordered its fighters to avoid the use of roadside bombs and other tactics that can inadvertently result in civilian casualties.
Taking a stand on policies
The group's leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar even touched on foreign-policy matters when he came out in support of protesters in Egypt whom he described as "trying to eradicate the reign of their corrupt and debased rulers."
Then, in a more ambitious move, the group recently declared its support for a gas pipeline planned to go from Turkmenistan through Afghanistan to Pakistan and India. When completed, the pipeline will be critical to the Afghan economy.
Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, a veteran Afghan warlord, founded the group in the late 1970s. During the 1980s, the US funded him to fight the Soviets, and in the struggle for power that followed the collapse of the Soviet-backed government, Hekmatyar battled other mujahideen commanders for control of Kabul, eventually shelling the city. According to the US government he is still allied with the Taliban and Al Qaeda in operations east of Kabul.
Though the group has not been on the US list of official foreign terrorist organizations, Hekmatyar and his group have been accused of a long list of human rights violations. – Staff