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.
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Days after the project was announced, Hizb-e-Islami issued a statement saying it had ordered its forces to protect it and denounced anyone trying to stop the project as "an enemy of their own nation" – voicing no threat of violence only disapproval.Skip to next paragraph
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The pipeline will pass through a number of areas outside the control of Hizb-e-Islami, so the announcement may be more symbolic than it is practical. But the Taliban and other groups made no public comments about the project, though because of popular support for the project, the Taliban are unlikely to attack it.
"If they do anything they will lose support and be hated by the majority of the country," says Abdul Qadir Munsef, an independent analyst in Kabul.
Hizb-e-Islami still requires some concessions to bring its members to the table with the High Peace Council, it says, including a foreign troop pullout this summer, and a number of Afghans question why the group isn't already working with the government if it's serious about joining the political process.
"Most Afghans think that the current platforms or strategy of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar are not for the betterment of Afghanistan. They think he should join the government under the law and then he can reach his goals," says Hakim Basharat, an independent analyst.
Indeed, Mr. Hekmatyar has a "colorful" past. Despite his purported support of women's education, in the late 1960s as a student leader he encouraged men to throw acid on the face of women who did not completely cover their heads.
During the war against Russia, American support made him one of the best funded mujahideen leaders in Afghanistan, and yet at the peak of the conflict in 1985 he refused to shake hands with then President Ronald Reagan, and he is now battling the United States.
Hizb-e-Islami has yet to be politically tested as the ruling party of Afghanistan, an important point for Afghans. Without a proven track record, the group may struggle to gain the trust of Afghans.
Still, as the Afghan government and international forces try to get militant groups to the peace table, Hizb-e-Islami appears to be the most willing to come and work within the existing government, says Moulabi Attaullah Loudin, a member of the High Peace Council.
The council, fraught with fits and starts since it was set up in the fall to de-escalate violence, appears to see the group's ambitions as a chance to get started.
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